Committee approves health care bill for uninsured

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(Host) By a vote of 9-2, the House Health Care Committee has approved a proposal to provide primary, chronic and hospital care to more of the state’s uninsured.

Committee Chairman John Tracy says the bill moves the state toward an overall system of care, which he says should save Vermonters money in the long run.

(Tracy) “Everyone admits the system is broken, it’s fragmented and nobody says keep doing it the way you’re doing it. We’re trying to provide a system of care that actually makes sense that will provide for better care and help us get a handle on the escalating growth of premiums.”

(Host) The bill now goes to the Ways and Means Committee, where lawmakers will determine how to pay for it.

That will probably include new taxes. And that’s a problem for Governor Jim Douglas.

(Douglas) “I’m pleased that they’re focusing on extending coverage to those Vermonters who aren’t insured now, and trying to address the problems of high premiums for those who are. But I do have some serious questions about the bill as it is presented now. It looks like it’s quite expensive. And again a number of legislators are talking taxes. And as you know, I presented a health reform measure that does not require a tax increase.”

(Host) Douglas’s plan doesn’t need new taxes because it offers fewer benefits. And Health Committee Chairman Tracy points out that the governor’s proposal will cost an additional $50 million for businesses that offer health insurance.

(Tracy) “Quite frankly I’m a little bit surprised that I haven’t heard more from the employer community about this burden of $45-50 million dollars on to them. Because they’re already paying. You know, money is money is money.”

(Host) The governor’s proposal prohibits people from signing up for state-sponsored Medicaid health insurance if their employer offers health coverage.

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