The Maine Health Access Foundation has awarded nearly $600,000 in two-year grants to support efforts to improve health care and reduce costs.

HealthInfoNet will receive a $198,659 grant to expand its statewide health information exchange, which currently includes about 900,000 patients and the 32 hospitals. Access to the data will help providers and health systems manage payment reform efforts around the state.

The Maine Primary Care Association will receive $200,000 to help develop a Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) to be offered as a qualified health plan through the state’s insurance exchange by the end of 2013. The CO-OP is specifically targeted toward Maine’s small group and individual market to control health care costs.

MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, will receive a $200,000 grant to develop a “Medicaid Health Homes” program. The program is intended to improve care and lower costs through enhanced primary care, links with Community Care Teams and payment reforms to compensate providers who participate in the MaineCare Accountable Communities program.

At $6,540, Maine’s annual health care spending per person is about $1,250 higher than the national average, according to the foundation. Maine’s annual health care costs increased 7.8 percent a year from 1991 to 2004, compared to 5.5 percent a year nationwide during the same period, it says.

The foundation was established in 2000 as a result of the sale of the nonprofit Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Maine to the for-profit Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Maine. It provides about $4 million in grants each year, as well as program funding, to improve access to quality health care.

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