Douglas prepared to veto health care bill over state financial risks

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he won’t sign a health care reform bill that places greater financial risks on the state of Vermont.

The Senate has given its approval to legislation that creates a subsidy program to help uninsured Vermonters afford health insurance coverage.

The legislation allows private health insurance companies to bid for the new state program – if the companies don’t offer competitive rates then the state would make the coverage available.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Douglas says this approach is unacceptable:

(Douglas) “So why would we want to have “Son of Medicaid” another government run plan that’s unsustainable for another portion of our population. We just can’t do that. We can’t take on a long term obligation of this magnitude and be fiscally responsible.”

(Host) Douglas says he’s also very reluctant to support a plan to impose a $365 per employee fee on companies that don’t offer coverage to their workers. That’s a key provision of the Senate bill.

(Douglas) “The reason that I think many of our employers don’t is because it’s gotten so darned expensive. The cost of premiums has risen so rapidly over the last few years that they just feel they can’t justify it as a cost of doing business. So if we can bring those premiums down I think more and more employers will offer the coverage that their employees need without having a mandate imposed by law.”

(Host) The governor says he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to reach a compromise with lawmakers on health care reform. If Democratic leaders include elements in the bill that they know the governor strongly objects to, Douglas says he’s fully prepared to veto the legislation.

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