(Host) House Republicans have unveiled a health care proposal at the Statehouse that would implement major changes to the state’s health care insurance system. Under the approach, consumers would be allowed to purchase insurance policies from companies doing business in any state in the country – policies that would not include many of Vermont’s insurance mandates. Democrats say the plan will increase premiums for older and less healthy Vermonters.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Republican leaders say their plan is needed because the Legislature over the past 15 years has adopted too many health care insurance mandates. For instance, all policies sold in Vermont must include pregnancy, mental health and chiropractic coverage. In addition, the state has a policy known as community rating that essentially requires private health insurance companies to offer the same premium rate to all individuals regardless of their age, gender or general health condition.
House Republican leader Peg Flory says health care premiums are often much lower in states that don’t have these mandates and she wants the Legislature to pass a law allowing Vermont consumers to purchase one of these policies:
(Flory) “The truth is Vermonters are being forced to pay more for their health insurance because of poor policy making over the years – right here under the dome by us. The truth is that residents of other states around the nation pay dramatically lower prices for quality health insurance and have more options than Vermonters. The truth is there’s no good reason why Vermonters should be denied access to this high quality insurance but right now they’re denied this choice and it defies common sense.”
(Kinzel) Democrats charge that the GOP plan will undermine the basic foundation of the state’s health care insurance industry. Health Care Committee Chair John Tracy says the Republican proposal will be great for healthy young people. But he argues if you remove these people from the state’s insurance market, rates for older, less healthy people will skyrocket because insurance is a pooled risk market:
(Tracy) “I think it’s an end run of what we have in place in Vermont around community rating, things like guaranteed issue. And getting those into lay people terms – we said, you know you cover the family in Vermont, you cover the community. You can’t just come in here and cover young and healthy people, which some insurance companies might do because it doesn’t cost them anything when you’re young and healthy. It doesn’t cost you anything to insure people. But when you deal with the whole population you have to deal with people with chronic illnesses. When our parents and grandparents get old it costs more. They should be covered because we feel as Vermonters it’s important to cover the whole family.”
(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s interested in the proposal and hopes lawmakers will give it serious consideration.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.