Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
H.559 Set for Passage; Outlaws Private Insurance Outside State-Controlled Exchange in 2014
On Wednesday the legislative conference committee tasked to sort out the minor differences between the House and Senate versions of H.559, the Health Benefits Exchange bill, concluded their work. The final version contains the same objectionable provisions as the House and Senate versions, in particular the mandate that private insurance outside the exchange will be outlawed starting January 1, 2014. This means that as of that date individuals, employers covered by association plans and businesses with fewer than 51 employees will be forced to drop their current coverage and purchase insurance only through the state-controlled exchange. And as of January 1, 2016, this group will expand to include up to 100 employees.
See the WCAX TV coverage here: http://www.wcax.com/story/18066324/health-care-reform-passes-in-montpelier
National Survey of Large Employers Shows Financial Advantage of Dumping Health Care Coverage
Townhall.com Carried a story about a report released by the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee predicting that large employers will likely drop their employee health benefits in response to incentives in the Affordable Care Act.
“In total, the 71 Fortune 100 companies that responded to this inquiry could save an estimated $28.6 billion in 2014 alone by eliminating health insurance coverage for their more than 5.9 million U.S. employees (impacting more than 10.2 million employees and dependents covered by those plans) and instead paying the $2,000 per full-time employee fine created in the Democrats’ health care law. From 2014 through 2023, these employers could save an astounding $422.4 billion if they took this action.”
Small employers (50 or fewer employees) do not face the penalty and in Vermont they are being strongly encouraged to drop their coverage in an effort to accelerate the transition to government monopoly single payer Green Mountain Care.
The Townhall.com article is here: http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katehicks/2012/05/01/report_companies_are_better_off_dropping_insurance_under_obamacare
A one-page summary of the survey results is here: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BROKEN_PROMISE_Key_Findings.pdf
Green Mountain Care Board Issues First Insurance Rate Hike Decision
On Tuesday the Green Mountain Care Board issued their first decision on a health insurance rate increase request. The authority to rule on these requests was transferred from the Commissioner of Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration to the Green Mountain Care Board by Act 48 last year. The Board approved a 3.67 percent increase in the “medical trend” portion of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s premiums for the upcoming quarter. In a GMCB press release board Chair Anya Rader-Wallack reminded us that their new authority extends dramatically beyond rate hike approvals:
“The GMCB noted in its decision that, over time, it will expand the scope of its consideration. Wallack emphasized that point, stating that “we will look for ways to use our rate review process to assess affordability, quality, and access and to actively support Act 48’s goals.”
The full GMCB press release can be found on VT Digger here: http://vtdigger.org/2012/05/02/gmcb-approves-bcbs-rate-increase/
Supreme Court Ruling Could Cripple Green Mountain Care Finances
Heartlander reports that states that choose to implement Obamacare could face upheaval if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate in June. The individual mandate is the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance, which is necessary for the financing of the law. If the mandate goes away, so too might the funding. What does this mean for Vermont?
“States that chose to rush ahead with the implementation of the law face significant and negative ramifications should the Supreme Court make such a decision. And a mandate isn’t the only issue – states like Oregon and Vermont, which have based their exchange-plus reforms on the assumption of millions of dollars in federal taxpayer funding that may never materialize, could find themselves facing billion-dollar shortfalls in just a few short years.”
While the Shumlin Administration still has not presented a budget or funding plan for the Vermont program, testimony from Administration officials has revealed that they are expecting about $200 million in annual receipts from Obamacare. An unofficial analysis of the program prepared by Rutland City Treasurer Wend Wilton indicates a need for something closer to $400 million per year. Either way, the statement in the Heartlander piece rings true. Wilton’s analysis shows that absent these free federal dollars Green Mountain Care will run up a $1.5 billion dollar deficit is five years.
Here is the link to the Heartlander article: http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2012/04/30/consumer-power-report-states-chose-implement-obamacare-could-face-uphea
Here is a link to the financial analysis of GMC by Treasurer Wilton: http://vthealthcarefreedom.org/sites/default/files/wendy-wilton-Green-Mountain-Care-financing-funding.pdf
Shumlin Compromise Undone by Secret Deal on Catamount
The Burlington Free Press published a letter from Stowe Representative Heidi Scheuermann, in which she explains the curious legislative process by which the Catamount Health program was scheduled for repeal, then retained, and finally repealed under cover of darkness. The original plan of the Shumlin Administration was the repeal of Catamount concurrent with the implementation of the health care benefit exchange in 2014; repeal, that is, except for the employer assessment funding mechanism which would continue to annually collect $9.8 million, apparently without a program to fund. When House members objected the repeal of Catamount was removed from the exchange bill. Re. Scheuermann explains what happened next:
“Unfortunately, the FY 2013 budget, as passed the House did, in fact, eliminate the Catamount program (though not in bill language, just in a line item), but kept in place the Employer Assessment, and transferred those funds to the State Health Care Reform Fund (SHCRF). We now find that the elimination and transfer language was nestled into the 2012 budget adjustment bill, which usually deals only with minor adjustments to the current year and avoids matters with significant policy implications.”
Efforts to correct this were subsequently defeated in the Senate.
Read Rep. Scheuermann’s full letter here: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120501/OPINION05/120430012/On-health-matters-Watch-shenanigans?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs
Consumer-Directed Health Plans Explained
John Goodman has prepared an excellent summary of consumer-directed health plan options, published by the National Center for Policy Analysis. If you are interested in learning about the differences between HAS’s, HRA’s, FSA’s and others this is an excellent resource, with links to additional information. He begins the piece with this paragraph:
“Newly announced regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act threaten the very existence of consumer directed health plans in the individual market (including the anticipated health insurance exchanges), according to Roy Ramthun. Yet according to a RAND study, these plans have the potential to reduce health care spending by 30% without causing any harm, even to vulnerable populations.”
The full article is available here: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/saving-for-health-care/