Don't go backwards on health care

December 19, 2012

Rutland Herald

Vermont has accomplished more than most states to help working Vermonters gain access to affordable health coverage through programs like VHAP and Catamount Health. We are at the forefront of heath care reform and once again Vermont was named as the healthiest state in the nation.

Why would Gov. Shumlin advocate for increasing costs to working Vermonters, when the health benefit exchange starts January 2014, and moving the state backwards?

VHAP and Catamount Health will end January 1, 2014, when the health benefit exchange starts. These programs provide the only option for affordable coverage for working Vermonters. The end of these programs will affect about 30,000 Vermonters, including those who are currently enrolled and those who are uninsured who will have to obtain coverage through the exchange.

In the exchange, their out-of-pocket costs increase dramatically. These are costs paid on top of premiums. Those in Catamount Health could see their out-of-pocket maximum increase from $1,050 year to as much as $6,250 year. This is about 28 percent of gross income for someone making about $34,000 who reaches the out-of-pocket maximum. Working Vermonters in these tough economic times do not have savings to fall back on. Those with chronic or disabling conditions are most at risk. It can take only one accident or medical crisis to be faced with overwhelming medical debt. Faced with such high costs, Vermonters will not get care when they need it or simply not enroll.

We do not have to go backwards. The Legislature already prioritized this spending to provide affordable coverage to working Vermonters. It should not be taken away now. We must do all we can to keep moving forward on the promise of universal affordable coverage for all Vermonters.

DONNA SUTTON FAY

(Policy director, Vermont Campaign
for Health Care Security Education Fund)
Montpelier