We Have Liftoff – Week 1 of the Exchange

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is continuing our newsletter series on the Federal and Vermont Health Care Exchanges. Our aim is to provide useful information to our client businesses and newsletter recipients, to help you wade through the Vermont Exchange, known as “Vermont Health Connect”, and to keep you updated on related happenings at the federal level.

Breaking News:

Public Records Request to Confirm Exchange Connectivity and Security

Vermonters For Health Care Freedom (VHCF) today sent a public records request to DVHA Commissioner Mark Larson. The communication requests copies of any and all correspondence between Vermont Health Connect (VHC) and CMS’s Federal Data Services Hub, to verify VHC’s continuous connectivity with the Federal data hub. The data hub links state insurance exchanges with a handful of federal agencies (e.g., HHS, IRS, Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Service, Social Security), to verify a myriad of applicant information, such as citizenship and household income.

This connectivity is critical to the ability of Vermonters to use the Exchange. Without continuous reliable connectivity with each of the requisite federal agencies, the Exchange cannot function. Every state has to be certified through the “Final Detailed Design Review” (FDDR). The FDDR is a live real-time data verification demo that all state exchanges are required to complete to ensure linkage to the Federal data hub. Vermont Health Connect says that the Exchange has the connectivity now. VHCF would like to see Vermont’s certification from the FDDR.

VHCF’s public records request also includes any and all correspondence between VHC and the IRS, in order to verify that VHC has met the required security verifications needed to connect with the IRS. VHC says that they have gotten the IRS security approval. However, if VHC website is not as secure as it needs to be, it can be hacked. We think Vermonters will want to know that this certification has been obtained and that their financial information is truly secure.

VHCF believes that it is in the public interest for the Shumlin administration, particularly Commissioner Larson and his team, to be fully transparent in every step along the way of this implementation. If they fail at any turn, and then refuse to postpone or delay the implementation, it is Vermonters who will suffer the consequences. Transparency and full disclosure include being completely open and honest with Vermonters. This project is too big to fail, and too many Vermonters’ health insurance coverage is at stake.

We will keep our readers apprised of the information we receive from Commissioner Larson in response to our public records request.

VHCF has identified five key steps that Vermont Health Connect must successfully complete, to ensure no lapse in coverage for the 100,000 Vermonters who must buy insurance through the Exchange by January 1, 2014. These fundamental steps must be in place for the Exchange to operate. We will begin this week to measure VHC’s progress in each of the 5 steps, and will update our readers weekly.

1. Maintain a secure and continuous connection to the Federal Data Hub.

Score: Unknown (Claims made but not proven.)

2. Connect with and transfer records without issue or delay to the three insurance carriers, Blue Cross, MVP and Delta Dental.

Score: Unable to do so

3. Share site information with Vermonters without delays or computer interruption issues.

Score: Sometimes

4. Vermonters able to create accounts and sign up for coverage.

Score: Sometimes, but not at a high enough rate

5. Meet December 15th deadline so that 100,000 Vermonters won’t lose or have lapses in coverage

Score: Unknown

VHCF Response to the VPIRG Tsunami

After receiving about 200 emails from VPIRG members in response to VPIRG’s flash blast earlier this week, VHCF offers the following information, which VPIRG members may find interesting.

Our robocall was not inaccurate or misleading. And it was not our intent to score “political points”. The fate of health care for all Vermonters should not be perceived as a political issue. Our goal is to keep Vermonters informed about matters that the mainstream press may not be privy to or is not reporting, and to provide the information that Governor Shumlin certainly will not tell the taxpayers, because unfortunately, for him, health care reform IS political.

Vermont Health Connect Score Card: 5 Key Steps Necessary for 100,000 Vermonters to Be Insured By January 1

First, the robocall: The possibility of being uninsured on December 21 is very real. Think about it. Many states are now grappling with enrolling their Exchange-eligible citizens in a short 3 month window. And NONE of the other 49 states have mandated that ALL individuals and ALL small businesses with <50 employees, join their state’s Exchange! In addition to the forced migration,

Vermont’s window has now shrunk from 3 months to 2, thanks to missed deadlines by the Exchange’s contractor.

Vermont’s entire health insurance system is stripped away and replaced by this governmental system – and if it doesn’t deliver as promised – what then?

Vermont would save over $500m in the first year of single payer. That savings projection quickly evaporated, but has the Shumlin administration ever explained to taxpayers where it went? The UMass report pegged the savings at $34m but we still do not have a final estimate. What happened to the rest of the savings? Is $34m now accurate? Why did one analysis come up with $500m and the other $34m? Has anyone figured that out? If so can they explain it to the rest of us? Does anyone really know what time it is? There are flaws in this endeavor that you are not told about and you will not be told about.

It’s great to have faith in a new enterprise, but there is too much at stake here for Vermonters to rely on blind faith, with no “trust, but verify” built in. Vigilance and due diligence are critical here. Our mission is to “keep them honest” as Anderson Cooper says, keep probing, keep raising the legitimate issues and concerns expressed to us by many Vermonters, and keep telling the other side of the story as often as possible.


And Now For A Little Levity


Well-known union member and liberal Dave Bellini has read between the lines and as a 34 year state employee, offers these insights on the Exchange. Dave sent this piece in to Vermont Digger and we have reprinted it here with his permission:

State Government Speak Decoded

  • · “Nothing burger = “Major problem”
  • · “Work to do” = “We haven’t started”
  • · “Cost savings” = “Cost Increases”
  • · “$590 million dollars” = “Zero dollars”
  • · “Affordable” = “You can’t afford it”
  • · “Bronze plan” = “Bankruptcy plan”
  • · “Platinum plan” = “You can’t afford it”
  • · “Single payer” = “Multiple payers”
  • · “Independent panel” = “Hand selected panel”
  • · “Sustainable” = “Increasingly more expensive”
  • · “Lay the groundwork” = “Provide no details”
  • · “Broad outline” = “Provide no details”

· “Shift the paradigm” = “Shift the cost”