by Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom (VHCF) is continuing through our newsletters to provide relevant health plan information to client businesses and newsletter recipients. The information is designed to help you wade through the morass that is Vermont’s health care exchange, otherwise known as “Vermont Health Connect”.
Correction to our August 2nd newsletter: In our cost example of a single person taking the MVP Bronze plan, we added the $3,500 medical deductible in as a separate cost to the member. It is not a separate cost. It is included in the member’s out of pocket maximum expense of $6,350 per year, as are the $200 drug maximum and the $1,250 out of pocket maximum on drugs.
So the correct calculation for this member is: $4,034 premiums + $6,350 maximum out of pocket expenses = $10, 384. Apologies for the error and many thanks to an astute broker, Howard Dindo of Paige and Campbell, for picking it up, and for his contributions to this issue.
Lt. Governor Phil Scott Questions Whether Vermont Exchange Will Be Ready on Time: In an August 5th interview with Bob Kinzel on Vermont Public Radio, Lt. Governor Phil Scott expressed his concerns that Vermont’s exchange won’t be ready on time. The state is planning a massive public education campaign about the Exchange but Scott isn’t convinced that this effort will be successful.
“More and more Vermonters that I’ve talked to are not engaged in the issue at all and don’t know what it’s going to mean to them personally, don’t know what it’s going to mean to them as a company that they might own,” said Scott. “I just think we have our heads in the sand a bit on the Exchange alone.”
Mark Larson, the Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access says the Exchange will be ready. “We’re on track to offer Vermonters health coverage in an accessible straightforward way starting October 1st.” Notice he left out the word “affordable”.
Lt. Governor Phil Scott thinks the state made the wrong decision to design its own Exchange.
“We’ve ordered something that’s custom made and we’re not sure how it’s going tofunction here,” said Scott. “So it’s taken a little bit more time and I’m really concerned about whether we can put this on the line and have it ready for our use by the October deadline.”
Robin Lunge, director of Health Care Reform for the Shumlin Administration says it was important for Vermont to create its own Exchange. “Should we go with the federal model? Might it be easier? Sure,” said Lunge. “Would it work as well for Vermonters? Absolutely not.”
Absolutely not? Thirty four other states must think it will work. So It might be easier for Vermonters, but it wouldn’t help the Shumlin Administration create a single payer system is the real story. Whose best interests are being served here?
The state has received over $170 million from the federal government to set up Vermont Health Connect. Vermont taxpayers have kicked in another $20 million. The money has been used to hire dozens of employees, to finance a variety of outreach programs, and to upgrade the state’s computer system. Arguably a duplication of what the Feds have already done for states that are not setting up their own exchanges.
One Year Delay?: On August 6th, VHCF signed onto a letter by The Repeal Coalition to Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging them to insist on, as a part of any final deal, a one year delay of all 2014 PPACA provisions, including mandates, subsidies and taxes. A copy of the letter can be seen below:
Dear Speaker Boehner & Leader McConnell,
With the clock ticking to open enrollment on October 1, it is abundantly clear to members of the Repeal Coalition that the structure at the heart of PPACA is simply not ready. To help the American people avoid getting hit by what Senator Max Baucus memorably referred to as “a huge train wreck coming down,” we the undersigned urge you to insist on, at minimum as part of any final deal, a one-year delay of all 2014 provisions (including mandates, subsidies, and taxes) in the upcoming CR and in fiscal negotiations with the White House.
1. Mandates. The president has already delayed the mandate for the biggest corporations unilaterally, although his legal authority to do so is questionable. Congress should lift the legal cloud on that delay and extend the same relief to individuals and small businesses by delaying the individual mandate. It is wrong to force people to participate in a system that is simply not ready.
2. Subsidies. Without a complete, workable verification system to protect taxpayers it would be reckless to allow tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to flow in subsidies. And there is a real risk that navigators, in their zeal to enroll people, will accidentally or even intentionally induce people to accept subsidies for which they do not qualify, risking steep IRS fines and audits. The money should not flow when the law’s verification provisions are not ready to be enforced.
3. Taxes. The American people should not be forced to pay higher taxes for a system that isn’t ready.
Kevin Counihan, chief executive of Connecticut’s state exchange, has repeatedly said: “I wish we had one more year.” With the train wreck coming, millions of Americans feel the same way. We therefore urge you to insist on a one-year delay and we will strongly support all efforts to include one on any long-term continuing resolution, extenders package, or other negotiated budget deal this fall.
Grover Norquist — Americans for Tax Reform
Phil Kerpen — American Commitment
Heather Higgins — Independent Women’s Voice
James Capretta — Ethics and Public Policy Center
Grace Marie Turner — Galen Institute
Jim Martin — 60 Plus Association
Avik Roy — National Review
Colin Hanna — Let Freedom Ring
Gregory T. Angelo — Log Cabin Republicans
Ken Hoagland — Restore America’s Voice
Penny Nance — Concerned Women for America
David Wallace — Restore America’s Mission
Andrew Langer — Institute for Liberty
Betsy McCaughey — author, Beating Obamacare
David Williams — Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Lanhee Chen — Hoover Institution
Peter Ferrara — National Center for Policy Analysis
Chuck Muth — Citizen Outreach
Brian Baker — Ending Spending
Darcie Johnston — Vermonters For Health Care Freedom
The system is simply not ready for an October 1, 2013 rollout, either for Vermonters or for people in the 34 states that have opted to participate in the federally-run exchange.
A Serious and Significant Delay: On August 6th, Bloomberg News reported that the ObamaCare data hub is lagging well behind schedule for the October 1 Exchange implementation. Testing of the government’s “data services hub” has just begun on August 5th, which is one month later than scheduled. The Office of Inspector General issued a report on Monday this week saying that the contractor responsible for developing a system security plan had missed deadlines. And ironically, on the same day, HHS started allowing people to set up personal accounts and passwords on the website for joining the federal exchange. Final security documents were supposed to be submitted to the Inspector General on May 6th and July 1st, but the contractor missed those deadlines.
Why is this important? The computer system is designed to link the databases of seven U.S. agencies to determine which Americans can buy medical insurance and get government subsidies through the online marketplaces. The hub must be able to safely route tax information and other data among the exchanges and federal agencies. The data hub is a critical and essential part of the exchange system. CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner has said that she is confident that the hub will be operationally secure and have authority to operate prior to October 1st.
It is not clear what contingency plan, if any, has been set up for this eventuality. It is common knowledge that any large computer system requires a significant amount of testing and adjustment before it can “go live”. A system this size is mind-boggling. The number of things that can go wrong, coupled with the necessary time for fixes, is beyond imagination. If the security piece can’t be completed on time and obtain operational authority, it is likely that the entire exchange implementation will be delayed.
A Common Dilemma: On August 7th, The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported that the town of Berlin Select Board is wrestling about what to do about the exchange. Although they have had time to reflect on this change, Board members appeared no closer to deciding just what to tell the town’s 15 member workforce. Many towns like Berlin must decide whether to continue offering health plans to its employees and if so, whether or not to restrict the available range of 18 recently approved exchange plans.
None of the plans mirrors the high deductible managed care Blue Cross plan that Berlin currently offers. One of the four standard deductible plans offered by Blue Cross (the gold plan) comes closest to matching the monthly premiums the town currently pays, but the similarities end there. Employees are now responsible for a $2,000 annual deductible. The gold plan has deductibles of $4,250 for an individual and $8,500 for a family. Berlin is leaning toward giving employees a fixed amount, based on the town’s budget, so that they can purchase their own plans. That’s an option, but it may or may not afford employees the coverage they need, without a lot of additional out of pocket cost to the employee.
Probably the best way to sum up the exchange in general is a quote from Berlin Selectman Pete Kelley, who said, about taking more time to decide, “I’m not going to understand this any better next meeting than I do now”. Well said, Mr. Kelley.
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