by Lindsay Smith & Rob Roper
Many of the questions surrounding the costs of healthcare reform in Vermont continue to go unanswered, but some numbers came into focus this week: $8,900,00 – $10,900,000. That is the amount of tax dollars estimated that Vermonters could have to raise in 2015 to pay the administrative costs of running the healthcare exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2014, the Federal Government will pick up that tab. In 2015, the state is on it own.
With Robin Lunge, Vermont Director of Healthcare Reform, testifying before the House Healthcare Committee, Rep. Jim Eckhardt
(R-Chittenden) asked, “If you get 96,000 people that sign on to this [healthcare exchange] in 2014, and we’re getting all this money from the federal government to pay for that, what happens in 2015 when that federal money disappears?”
Lunge said she had no idea.
However, language in the ACA states that, “exchanges must be self-sustaining in 2015 and may generate revenue through assessments, users fees, or other means.” That is, essentially, a call for open season on taxpayers.
According to a document titled, Vermont Health Insurance Exchange Planning, Task 6,0: Analysis of Exchange Financial Functions Final Report, the roughly $9-$11 million would be use to pay for things such as financial management, premium collection, certification processes, a call center, a website, and outreach and education.
Eckhardt pressed Lunge for details on costs, revenue sources and other financial information, but was rebuffed with the now standard line that no such information will be made available until 2013. Eckhardt believes this is unacceptable. He wants financial information before he votes on the bill in order to properly and intelligently represent the interests of his constituents. If 2015 has a substantial tax liability in store for Vermonters, people have a right to know these costs and prepare for them accordingly.
“They know we’re going to ask these questions,” said Eckhardt, “but they choose not to answer it now until after the bill has left the house then they’re going to talk about financing. Well, by that time the cats out of the bag and we can no longer defend our constituents.”