Health Care Reform

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With the focus at the Vermont Statehouse on strengthening Vermont’s economy, what are the prospects for health care during the current session? Senate Health and Welfare chairman Doug Racine and House Health Care chairman Steve Maier discuss their priorities and what they think can be passed this year. What is the future for VPharm and Catamount Health? Will Vermont serve as a pilot health reform plan for the Federal government?

Also, Senator Patrick Leahy discusses his proposed "Truth Commission."

Plus, a listen back to some of the voices in the news this week.

AP Photo/Toby Talbot


Listener comments:


Tricia in Morrisville:

I wonder if "dumping" the entire State Employee workforce and all of
their dependents into Catamount Health would make it a stronger and less
expensive program. It would instantly risk pool and allow for the millions of
dollars that the employees themselves pay to go directly into Catamount, not to ention the state’s portion. The following year the state colleges and UVM could enter, and then municipal employees etc… ? Also is there any discussion about allowing employers to pay their employees
premiums for them to get Catamount? My husband owns a small business, himself and a co-owner and one employee. He and his partner are covered under their spouses plans but the employee does not have any insurance. We are small enough that we would not be requirted to pay the emplyer fee for him but really would like to offer healthcare to him and would be interested in paying his premium to get coverage, my understanding is that is not allowed at this time.


My partner has been responsibly paying too-high premiums through
Blue Cross/Blue Shield for years. He makes a modest salary, and works
for an employer that does not offer health insurance. He wants to get
on Catamount, but doesn’t qualify because he is currently insured, even
though his deductible is $5,000 a year (!) and his premium is almost a
week’s pay.
Why not alter the rules to allow people paying a certain percentage of their income on health insurance premiums? For myself, I am a 33 year old full time student finishing my
first bachelor’s degree. My school insurance is a joke. I think full
time students should also be eligible for Catamount, to bolster anemic
school insurance.

Fred in Windsor:

Just one concern for now. Why is it, when the economy goes south, the
only people who pay are consumers? In such times as these, when we are
all mindful of our finances, why do insurers only offer raises in
premiums? Would it finally be best to throw the current system away and
return to the hospitals to manage our care? After all, do they know
what are needs are?
And with CEO’s taking multi-million dollar bonuses, do they really need raises in rates?



I just heard the Representative say that Catamount Health has a
$250 deductible, and when pressed as to why this low deductible, he
said "everyone deserves that" or something to that effect. My health care provided through work has $1,500 deductible and it
is still expensive. I think as a taxpayer, who is paying for my own
health care and through taxes for those who need Catamount, I think it
is absurd that the State is offering a policy with a lower deductible. With these economic times, why not consider increasing that
deductible? I think that workers who get private health care would now
want to drop their plans and go on Catamount.
Mary Jane:
You could afford to let more people in if you provided just basic access instead of the high end insurance you are offering now. My employer based plan
has been steadily eroding for the last ten years to the extent that it
is now nothing more than a catastrophic plan. Huge premiums and huge
deductibles limit my families access to health care. By the time we are
done paying the premiums we wouldn’t think of going to the doctor and
generating yet another bill. How about taking the heat off businesses
who are being buried by the costs. Extend a state plan to EVERYONE that
provides basic care, without the frills, and the private insurers
extracting profitsand driving up costs. As it is young people graduating from college and "aging out" of
their parents’ plans are being thrown under the bus with little hope of
jobs that will provide decent benefits. Why should state sponsored
plans provide such a low deductible when working families and young adults who have jobs with no health care get no access at all. SINGLE PAYER PLAN PLEASE.

You said you hadn’t heard of a private health care
plan with a high deductible. I worked 32 years for a forward-thinking health insurance
company that is now offering its retirees a non-subsidized health care plan. The deductible for my spouse and me is $2850.
My monthly premiums for medical and dental is $1,300…this
year. (Up $100 a month from last year.) I would be very open to subscribing to a state-sponsored
health plan – if offered – that would guarantee our coverage for the rest of our
lives – and I would be happy to pay 10 x 65 dollars a month to get it.
It would still be less expensive than what I have now. Why can’t the state figure out a way to bring in new
members to a state-wide health care plan at premiums commensurate with income that
would keep the system viable?


Roger in Bristol:

care costs include insurance, gov’t assistance and direct payments to the
health care industry. How is this money spent on a percent basis? What
percent goes to—

  • Salary
    and benefits for doctors
  • Salary
    and benefits for nurses
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Capital
    investments (buildings & equipment)
  • Administrative
  • Health
    insurance overhead (including admin staff at hospitals and health service providers
    to handle all the paper work).
  • Etc.

are the big cost segments?



I have one comment about eligibility for Catamount. I earned about $16000 last year and I am eligible for Catamount. Unfortunately, my income fluctuates over the year. I am a part-time instructor in the State college system, and last year I had no summer courses and no income for about a month over the Christmas break. For this reason I was eligible for VHAP for a few months over the summer, but while I am working I am just over the cutoff for help with the premiums on Catamount. If there were some way to average income over the year when calculating eligibility, or even divide my paychecks equally over the year as is done for full-time faculty, I would be eligible for reduced premiums and be able to afford continuous coverage. I’m sure many seasonal workers have the same problem. Is anyone considering a solution for this situation? Please forward this to anyone who might have influence in the matter. Thanks very much for your informative programs on Health Care.


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