Vermonters For Health Care Freedom
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom applauds the U.S. House Oversight Committee for its letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Commission Mark Larson questioning Vermont’s Health Care Exchange that mandates small businesses and that limits the ability of small businesses to purchase competitive insurance plans for their employees.
On June 28th, the US Congressional House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a 3 page letter to Mark Larson, Vermont Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013-06-28-DEI-Lankford-Jordan-to-Larson-VT-PPACA-Exchange-due-7-12.pdf
In the letter it was stated, “In May of 2011, Vermont passed a law aimed to set up a single-payer program in 2017. One year later the Vermont legislature proposed a second bill that would establish a Health Insurance Exchange as a transitional program. One of the provisions in that bill was a requirement that all small businesses with 50 or fewer members purchase coverage through the Exchange (“small business mandate”). In 2016, the small employer definition is set to increase to businesses with up to 100 employees.
Vermont’s proposal has experienced opposition from individuals and employers. Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern, stating “what we’re looking for is to have the health insurance Exchange as an option for businesses – and allow businesses to still have choice.” Vermont’s Exchange was conditionally approved by HHS in January 2013.
There are several concerns with restricting the purchase of health insurance to an Exchange. First, such a plan is inconsistent with principles of consumer choice and competition, which are vital to a well functioning health insurance market. Second, it is contrary to the [PPACA] statute, which states:
Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit-
(A) a health insurance issuer from offering outside an Exchange a health plan to a qualified individual or qualified employer, and
(B) a qualified individual from enrolling in, or a qualified employer from selecting for its employees, a health plan offered outside of an Exchange.
Based upon a straightforward reading of the statute, plans by Vermont to restrict access to the insurance market outside the Exchange violate the principle of voluntary participation in Exchanges that was codified in PPACA and reaffirmed in HHS [Health and Human Services] Exchange guidance that “participation in SHOP [Exchange] is strictly voluntary for small employers.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom agree with the US House Oversight Committee’s finding that the Vermont exchange is not compliant with the federal health care law. We urge Governor Shumlin act immediately to make the Vermont Health Care Exchange compliant with PPACA and make the exchange voluntary for individual Vermonters and Small Businesses.
Governor Shumlin signed Act 171 which made participation in the exchange mandatory. As recently disclosed this will result in fewer choices, higher health insurance premium and out of pocket costs, limited services, for individuals and small businesses. Vermont is the only state to mandate participation in the exchange. By making the exchange voluntary individuals and small businesses may continue to keep their current coverage, have greater choices in coverage decisions.
The Governor must act immediately and call a special session of the Vermont legislature to make the exchange voluntary and insure it compiles fully with the intent of PPACA before enrollment begins October 1. Failure to do so will create a legal exposure for the state.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom will begin immediate efforts to create a grassroots campaign to encourage the Governor and the VT Legislature to make the VT law compliant with the intent of Obamacare.