BURLINGTON, Vt. – Three separate protests were held across Vermont on Friday, where members of the Vermont Workers’ Center and other advocates demanded that Governor Phil Scott cut the State’s contract with OneCare Vermont.
OneCare manages Vermont’s all-payer model initiative, overseeing healthcare reform in the State and distributes money from Medicare, Medicaid and other sources to hospitals to slow their spending and promote preventative care.
The Vermont Workers’ Center and other nonprofits say OneCare is hurting Vermonters’ healthcare, and that rising costs and low wages for care workers prove that.
“We don’t want to be seeing our healthcare dollars, money we could be spending on healthcare, Medicaid dollars, going towards this for-profit private company,” said Jessica Morrison, who attended a picket protest in Burlington.
In a June report, Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer recommended that the Green Mountain Care Board design a transparent method to monitor OneCare and determine whether or not its intended benefit to the healthcare system outweighs the company’s operating costs.
On Friday, Governor Scott said he’s looking to reboot OneCare and the all-payer model, not abandon it.
“I think we owe it to everyone to keep moving forward on the all-payer model for the full five years, and I believe it can be improved, it can work,” Governor Scott said.
Protests were held in Burlington, Barre and St. Johnsbury on Friday, with an additional event scheduled for Saturday in Bellows Falls. OneCare went over their Medicaid budget by $17.4 million last year, leading organizers of the protests to accuse the company of using Medicaid as a slush fund. Instead, they want a universal health care system.
“We know he’s [Governor Scott] considering the future of OneCare, and we’re bringing a very strong message saying that it’s time to cut the contract with and move towards a public healthcare system,” said Keith Brunner of the Vermont Workers’ Center. “We think that Medicaid money should be going towards ensuring everyone gets the healthcare that we need.”
The Scott Administration’s plan to “reboot” OneCare and the all-payer model should be finalized by the end of the month. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said there’s reason to be optimistic.
“I’ve seen the all-payer model work during the height of the pandemic,” Smith said. “It was probably the single most effective instrument that we had in order to get prospective payments out to the healthcare institutions to avoid any collapse of healthcare.”