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AUGUSTA, ME - State Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess has been named to a panel that will examine the allocation of assets in the Fund for a Healthy Maine (FHM). House Speaker Robert Nutting announced the appointment in mid-August.

The new commission on FHM was established by the Legislature during its first session. The 13-member panel, which includes physicians as well as legislators, will follow up on a recommendation by the government watchdog agency OPEGA – the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability. A 2009 OPEGA report noted that there had never been a comprehensive reassessment of how FHM is being allocated to support health-related efforts.

"The Fund for a Healthy Maine seems overdue for a review," said Rep. Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland), who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee. "The programs it funds are worthwhile, but the needs may have shifted over its 12-year history. We won’t know until we conduct a careful analysis. Our job is to recommend how the funds should be distributed among new and existing programs to most effectively support the state’s current public health priorities."

FHM is financed by the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has provided the state with $45 million to $58 million every year since 2000. Racino revenues channeled to FHM have ranged from $1.7 million to $3.7 million annually.

The FHM program is intended to prevent disease and promote good health among Mainers of all ages. The founding legislation allowed spending in eight categories, ranging from prenatal and dental care for low-income individuals to substance abuse prevention and treatment. It also assists with the cost of prescription drugs for adults who are elderly or disabled, while attempting to attract the maximum in federal “matching” funds. The FHM has added a few new programs over the years, such as the School Breakfast Program.

The new commission is broadly charged with identifying and reviewing FHM’s effectiveness in addressing the state’s public health care goals. It is expected to make recommendations to ensure that funding allocations stay aligned with the state’s health priorities. That report is due to the Legislature by December 7, 2011.


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