Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is a 501 (c) (4) organization of individuals and businesses who are deeply concerned about health care reforms being implemented by Governor Shumlin, and seek patient-centered reforms that protect the traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Health Care Reform Newsletter #46

Vermonters For Health Care Freedom is a reliable source of health care news, information and commentary that is not available elsewhere.  Through research and our own network of experts, VHCF regularly produces insightful news, commentaries and rebuttals of misleading claims about Vermont’s health care reform. No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.

VHCF is the number-one organization sought out by the mainstream media to critique Vermont’s proposed health care reform policies.  We are proud to have played a pivotal rolein exposing the pitfalls of a single payer health care system, which fortunately met its demise at the end of 2014.

In 2015, we will focus on the impacts of Vermont’s continued push for a government-run health care system, and the state’s latest health care reform efforts.  Our reports will continue to keep our readers informed about the facts that even the Shumlin administration would prefer not to reveal.

Republicans Take the Lead With New Health Care Alternatives

In This Issue:

  • Lawmakers Gain Support for Freedom-Based Health Care Alternatives
  • Obamacare Will Result in Subsidy Paybacks For Many, Especially Vermonters

Quotes of the Week:

“Vermonters could not be expected to suffer new taxes in excess of $2 billion dollars to pay for a government health care monopoly brought to you and managed by the same people who failed to convert $170 million federal dollars into a working health insurance exchange serving just over a hundred thousand people.”

House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton

“I have some concern about the Governor’s plan to pursue an all-payer waiver, as he intends to control revenues related to Medicare”

Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington

“We have a lot of employers saying ‘Oh my God, you’re going to put me in that January 1?’”

Tom Scull, Employee Benefits Consultant, on the requirement for businesses with up to 100 employees to purchase through Vermont Health Connect on 1/1/16.

Lawmakers Gain Support for Freedom-Based Health Care Alternatives

For the first time in several years, Vermont lawmakers are finally free to propose reasonable and viable health care alternatives without being immediately shut down by the Shumlin administration and the Democratic majority.   And they have done just that.

Although Republican legislators led the charge, they were joined by at least two Democrats and one Independent.  Cynthia Browning and Jim Condon, both Democrats, and Adam Greshin, Independent, have joined Republicans in promoting several new health care bills.  This is very heartening.  It demonstrates that the abject failure of the Shumlin administration to either provide a health care solution or to make the health care exchange work, has resonated through all political parties.

One refreshing change in this year’s legislative session is the newly constituted House Health Care Committee.  Former House Health Care Committee Chair Mike Fisher was defeated in last year’s election.  Fisher had held the committee in an iron “single payer” grip for several years, refusing to listen to any other ideas or opinions.  With Fisher gone and three Republicans on the committee this year instead of only two, things are looking up.   Rep. Anne Donahue, ranking member of the House Health Care Committee, said, “I am very excited about the new atmosphere this year.  The openness of the Health Care Committee to re-look at where we’re going, the healthy skepticism of some of the administration’s proposals.  I have great optimism that (GOP) proposals…will be given strong full review and serious consideration”.  

The main thrust of the new bills is to loosen the iron grip that the Green Mountain Care Board has on every aspect of Vermonters’ health care choices and physicians’ freedom to practice. 

Vermonters can take heart that the relief they sought from Vermont Health Connect - and from the more onerous provisions ofthe single payer health law, Act 48 - may now be possible.  Amazingly, even House Speaker Shap Smith has finally come to the realization that Vermont should explore other exchange options.

If passed by the legislature,  the bills would (1) replace Vermont Health Connect, (2) allow Vermonters to choose providers and insurers in or out of state, (3) allow individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance outside Vermont Health Connect, and  (4) protect seniors from state-control of their Medicare funds. 

Here are the bills:

H.60:  Replaces Vermont Health Connect with a hybrid exchange:  Requires the Administration to provide the Legislature with a plan by March 15, 2015 to transition from a fully State-based exchange (Vermont Health Connect) to a supported state-based marketplace exchange (SSBM). This is a hybrid state/federal exchange where the state could still offer its own health plans but use the Feds’ IT services instead of the beleaguered Vermont Health Connect system. Several states, including Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and New Mexico have either implemented such an arrangement, or are in the transition process.

H. 78, H.188 and H.189:  Establishes a health care marketplace outside Vermont Health Connect.  Lifts the ban on individuals and small businesses of up to 100 employees, from purchasing health plans outside Vermont Health Connect (VHC). Deletes the current Act 48 language: “No person may provide a health benefit plan to an individual unless the plan is offered through the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange”.  Gives insurers the freedom to sell individual and small group health plans outside VHC, which could return Vermont to the open health care marketplace it had before Act 48. 

Allows Vermonters to purchase health insurance plans that are offered in any other state (across state lines). H.189 allows individuals not eligible for a federal or state exchange subsidy to enroll in Exchange plans directly through a health insurer.

H.177:  Repeals Vermont Health Connect effective January 1, 2016. Transitions Vermonters to the Federal exchange. This bill has 26 sponsors.

H.179:  Allows insurers to sell to individuals and small group outside Vermont Health Connect.  Safeguards physicians and Vermonters from any future payment reform restrictions by the Green Mountain Care Board. Ensures that any Vermont health care professional can establish a practice where and when they so choose, whether or not the GMCB agrees or approves. Prevents GMCB from establishing maximum reimbursement rates that health care professionals may accept that would interfere with the ability of a Vermont resident to enter into a voluntary financial arrangement with the provider of his or her choice. This bill has 47 sponsors.

H.181:  Removes Medicare from the strategic plan for a universal and unified health system and from global hospital budgeting. Specifies that any benefits offered to Medicare beneficiaries through the Vermont exchange must be in the form of Medicare supplemental plans only. 

This is a very important bill that would protect Vermont’s seniors from having their Medicare funds usurped by the state. The Shumlin administration is now pursuing an “all payer waiver” from the Feds, which would give them control over all Medicaid and Medicare funds for Vermonters. 

Medicare is a personal matter between Vermonters and their employers. Both have contributed to a Vermonter’s Medicare benefits via payroll deductions throughout the years the person has worked.  It is none of the state’s business, nor should the state have the right to try to insert itself between Vermonters and their Medicare benefits. 

Shumlin’s health care maven Robin Lunge has said repeatedly that Vermonters’  “Medicare benefits will not change”. What she fails to say is that while the benefits may not change, the administration wants the Feds to give them access to Vermonters’ Medicare funds! This is part of the ongoing single payer scheme that is still being pursued by Shumlin through the “all payer waiver”.  

Should this occur, the state would be able to set the amounts they will pay Medicare providers, and Vermont seniors could see more docs unwilling to take Medicare patients, as now happens with Medicaid patients. Medicarepays about 80% of a provider’s charges, and most docs are fine with that. Medicaid, on the other hand, pays only about 60%, and many docs refuse to take on new Medicaid patients. 

What possible motive would the Shumlin administration have other than to “manage the money”, by restricting the amounts of Medicare would pay to providers?  VHCF believes that Medicare benefits will change, because Vermont seniors will not be able to get the care they need if Medicare language is allowed to remain in Act 48.

Obamacare Will Result In Subsidy Paybacks For Many, Especially Vermonters

At the close of the second Obamacare open enrollment, polls are showing an increasingly dissatisfied public. According to Gallup, at the end of 2014, public approval of Obamacare had dropped to an all-time low of 37%. But those who purchased coverage through the exchanges will get a lot more ornery come tax time this spring.  They will have to fill out a new and extraordinarily complicated tax form – the instruction booklet runs 21 pages – that directs them to do things like, “add allocated amounts across all allocated policies with amounts for non-allocated policies from Form 1095-A, if any”.  Whew. 

Tax preparer H&R Block estimates that 3.4 million – or roughly half of those who received government subsidies to purchase insurance in the exchanges last year – will have to pay back part of those subsidies because they misreported their incomes.

In Vermont, the picture is even worse. After two years of operation, the Vermont Health Connect (VHC) exchange still cannot process changes in circumstances, which would allow members to avoid overpaying and having to repay subsidies.  Shulman’s health care czar Lawrence Miller keeps moving the goalposts on when VHC will actually be fixed.  First it was by March 2015; then April or May 2015; and recently VHCF heard August 15, 2015 bandied about in the State House.

No wonder there are several new legislative bills to shut down VHC and move to the Federal exchange. Although not ideal, it would be better than what the Shumlin administration is offering.   

 

Our next newsletter will be published on March 16th.


Save the Date for a Free Market Health Care Conference:

 Vermont On the Mend...Healing Vermont's Health Care Crisis

Saturday, March 21, 2015

"It amazes me to hear politicians say the present Vermont health care system is completely "broken" when by most national measures Vermont's health and healthcare always come out at the very top of the 50 states. Having served nearly thirty years in a solo orthopedic surgical practice involving call every night and 7 day a week coverage for Gifford Medical Center I proudly treated every patient whether they could pay or not - some even at home. My colleagues, nurses and staff at Gifford Medical Center equally serve their fellow Vermonters 24/7 without regard to ability to pay. It denigrates us all when our efforts are so callously categorized for political advantage in pursuit of the Holy Grail of a single payer which may or may not help solve the problems of health care funding."

William Minsinger MD, Randolph, Vermont

  • Employers pay 40% of the healthcare costs – and were never consulted.
  • An appointed board will determine benefits, coverage, funding, deductibles, co-pays, premiums, technology, provider payments, etc.
  • Under this law, you will not be allowed to purchase insurance outside of the Vermont Health Benefit Exchange.