On Dec. 18, the Green Mountain Care Board, Vermont’s health care regulating body, approved a $1.43 billion OneCare budget, a 59% increase from the previous year. The latest budget increase reflects continued actions by public officials to turn the core functions of Vermont’s health care needs over to an expensive, experimental and for-profit ACO, or accountable care organization. OneCare refers to the merged desire of our region’s largest hospitals, UVM Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, to prioritize costs from insurance providers over the health care needs of patients. We believe the ACO has failed to provide evidence that Vermont’s health care outcomes have improved with the added layers of bureaucratic cost required to maintain it.
OneCare’s budget is supported by millions of dollars of public money from Medicare and Medicaid, but the ACO refuses to publish the salaries of its top executives or make its accounting transparent for public review. In the last year, OneCare reduced spending on community health while Vermont’s state auditor found that the organization did not accurately report on its community health initiatives. In November, a whistleblower accused OneCare of defrauding the federal government with unreliable data. Another concern is that the former chair of the Green Mountain Care Board left his public service position for an executive role with OneCare affiliate UVM Health Network.
Public officials who have put their trust in OneCare have handed the health of Vermonters to an untested system unaccountable to the public. Public money raised through Medicaid should be used to provide health care to Medicaid recipients; it should not be diverted to prop up the ACO any longer.
Health care is a human right and must be a public good. By 2022, when the ACO contract is up for renewal, OneCare aims to be responsible for the care of two out of three people in Vermont. Instead of trusting our health to OneCare, public officials should work toward funding the universal health care system mandated by law in Act 48.