(Host) The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is developing a health care proposal that takes into account the priorities of the committee, the governor and the House. As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, it’s a bi-partisan initiative that still has a long way to go.
(Kinzel) The draft proposal would require all individuals to obtain health insurance and it offers subsidies to help low- and middle-income people purchase a plan. It also imposes a fee on all businesses that don’t offer coverage to their employees. The Senate plan also includes a provision, proposed by the governor, which drops individuals from the existing state health care program if they’re offered insurance coverage at work and don’t take it.
Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Jim Leddy is pleased with the overall draft plan:
(Leddy) “We truly believe that every single Vermonter should have health care protection through a good insurance plan and we think everybody should pay a fair share.”
(Kinzel) Leddy thinks the most important part of the plan is an effort to force insurance companies to reimburse health care providers for preventative efforts to keep patients with chronic illnesses as healthy as possible:
(Leddy) “People with chronic illnesses are not getting the type of care they need about half of the time. We need to change that. We believe that can only work if the insurance model that we adopt includes and finances chronic care treatment, rather than ignores it.”
(Kinzel) Senator Kevin Mullin, a Republican from Rutland, is a member of the Health and Welfare Committee. He’s encouraged by the general direction of the draft plan:
(Mullin) “I like the fact that we’re trying to get more people on employer-sponsored insurance plans and not trying to just expand government programs. I like the fact that we’re moving towards universal access for insurance and that’s the key.”
(Kinzel) Last year Mullin opposed an effort to impose a payroll tax on businesses that don’t offer coverage to their employees. He says the plan this year to force these companies to pay a fee based on the total number of their employees is a much better approach:
(Mullin) “I think that what this plan is envisioning is a fee, a small fee, copying what’s been done in Massachusetts that might make it realistic to try and get at least some monies into the game from those very small struggling employers.”
(Kinzel) Part of the financing for the plan includes the second installment of the national tobacco settlement fund. The governor has earmarked this money for his college scholarship program and he’s reluctant to use it for any other purpose.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.