Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom applauds the actions of Representative Martha Heath (D-Westford) and Representative Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia) in proposing an independent assessment to ensure VHC will be financially sustainable, outside the auspices or assurances of the Shumlin administration.
In a recent letter sent to Representatives Heath and Branagan, Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, wrote “Commissioner Larson’s testimony on the high costs per capita to develop and run the exchange in Vermont should give you pause about moving forward with its implementation this year. You are being asked to commit tremendous state resources into a program which might be better operated by a larger entity with lower per capita costs—linking to the federal exchange, or perhaps a larger state.”
Johnston concluded, “We strongly recommend that the Vermont legislature allow the federal government to set up the Vermont Health Care Exchange as they are doing in 31 other states. The power to make the cautious decision is indeed in your hands and is your responsibility. There will be time to participate in the ACA and the Exchange concept. Rushing this decision should not come at extreme and unnecessary cost to Vermonters, and must not result in an increase in the number of uninsured.”
However, despite legislative concerns about fiscal sustainability and implementation risk, the legislature has rebuffed an offer by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont to provide a back-up plan, according to the report in BCBSVT’s weekly legislative report:
“The House Health Care Committee last week decided not to accept a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont proposal to authorize the state to temporarily allow small businesses to enroll directly with qualified health plans if Vermont’s Health Exchange is not fully operational when enrollment begins in October.
The committee decided not to proceed with the proposed amendment after administration officials said that a provision in Act 171 of 2012 gives the administration the authority to respond adequately if the Exchange is not fully operational. The Act 171 provision authorizes the Department of Financial Regulation commissioner to continue the current market if the Exchange is not completed on time, BCBSVT told the committee its proposal was offered to create a way to reduce the volume of enrollees required to go through the Exchange enrollment function and alleviate some of the pressure on the system while preserving all other reform aspects of the Exchange, such as new standardized benefit plans. Vermont’s Exchange design is unique among the states in that all individuals and small businesses must purchase and enroll through the Exchange without an off-exchange alternative.
In previous testimony before the committee, BCBSVT expressed its concerns that the state would not have a fully functional Exchange in place by October given the enormous IT project involved in developing Vermont’s unique Exchange, which is mandatory for all individuals and small businesses and includes the Exchange performing all enrollment and billing functions.” (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont Legislative Report, April 22, 2013)