Vt. Senate Set To Consider 2012 Health Care Law

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The heart of the bill is the creation of a consumer marketplace Exchange where individuals and businesses with fewer than 50 employees, would be required to purchase their policies beginning in 2014.

Backers of the Exchange say it will give consumers the opportunity to compare policies with similar benefits, and they say it will make coverage more affordable because federal tax credits will be available based on a person’s income. 

Those income guidelines are $44,000 for an individual, $60,000 for a couple, and $92,000 for a family of four.

Jeff Wennberg is the director of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom. He said the legislation will ban the sale of independent policies outside of the Exchange and he says that will hurt consumer choice.

"This is completely contrary to the express intention of the Affordable Care Act," Wennberg said. "It is unique – that is to say, there is no other state in this nation that is contemplating or in the process of putting together an exchange that intends to use it to restrict competition in the marketplace."

Lincoln Rep. Michael Fisher is the chairman of the House Health Care committee. He said policies sold in the Exchange have greater consumer protections.

"The harm is that protections we’ve built inside the exchange means that people can keep their insurance even when they leave employment, that people can choose the plans that are best for them that we know that people are going to be getting the value of the tax subsidies, and that we’re not building duplicative administrative structures at the same time", Fisher said.

Fisher said he’s also concerned that Wennberg’s group won’t disclose its list of contributors.

"There’re some very big monied interests that have a interest in the health care system not changing and those monied interests will fight reform from beginning to end and I just can’t evaluate whether its big pharmaceutical companies  whether its national insurance lobby, or other interests that I’m speaking to now."

Wennberg said many similar groups don’t disclose their individual donors and he argues this question takes the focus away from the real concerns in this debate.

"Our organization is funded by hundreds of Vermont businesses, small businesses, individuals and providers. That is the vast majority of the funding the contributions that we’ve received have come inside Vermont from people and businesses in those categories," Wennberg said. "It is a complete distraction to raise this issue."

The 2012 health care bill has been reviewed by a number of Senate committees and the legislation is expected to be on the Senate floor for debate by the middle of next week.

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