Rebecca Holcombe Condemns Health Care Rate Increase; releases proposals to lower health care costs for Vermonters

NORWICH—Last week, the Green Mountain Care Board approved double-digit rate increases for qualified health plans, affecting nearly 75,000 Vermonters. At a time when so many Vermont families and small businesses are already struggling to pay for health care, these rate increases are unacceptable.

These rate increases will increase the burden on Vermont families, make it even harder for small businesses to grow, and put downward pressure on wages.

And, rate hikes mean the number of uninsured or underinsured Vermonters will increase, which will cause more people to delay important care and skip medications they can’t afford. The rate hikes mean more people failing to pay their hospital bills, which means more hospitals struggling to stay solvent. They mean higher property tax rates to pay for public employees’ health insurance. Vermont deserves better.

Consider:

  • Vermonters between ages 25 and 34 are three times more likely to be uninsured than other citizens.
  • 36% of Vermonters under age 65 don’t have insurance policies that adequately cover their needs.
  • Underinsured Vermonters report more problems paying medical bills and more contact with collection agencies.
  • Rising levels of “bad debt” and provision of free care undermine the financial health of Vermont hospitals.

Health care affordability is the number one issue that is driving up our state budget, business costs, property taxes, and household expenses. Gov. Scott’s continued inaction on addressing the rising costs of health care is leaving many Vermonters behind. Affordability needs to be more than a slogan. If we continue on the current path of rate increases, we should expect double-digit inflation in health insurance premiums for years to come, along with the property tax increases, economic stagnation, and harmful health care decisions.

We need immediate action that makes a difference for our small businesses and families. 

We can’t afford to wait for federal solutions on health care. Vermonters need a governor who will stand up to the powerful health insurance companies and prescription drug companies, but that isn’t enough. As governor, I will lower healthcare costs and expand access to affordable health care by:

  • Working to ensure Vermonters can import lower cost prescription drugs: In 2018, the legislature passed Act 133, which requires the governor to prepare a plan for a waiver that would allow us to import drugs at a lower cost from Canada. Every day we delay on this important work is another day of prescription drug inflation for Vermonters.
  • Addressing inequality in health impacts and access to care: Poverty and unequal access are driving up costs for all Vermonters. For example, people who are economically disadvantaged in Vermont are three times more likely to have diabetes. That is expensive for people with diabetes, for their employers, and for the shared costs we all bear in our health insurance system.
  • Paying for value of care (measured by patient outcomes per dollar spent), not quantity of care: We need to accelerate payment reform, so we reward doctors who keep patients healthy and help sick patients get well faster. We should not reward providers who perform unnecessary medical tests and overprescribe overpriced pharmaceuticals. In 2015, the legislature passed Act 53, which enabled the launch of “One Care Vermont,” and initial results were encouraging. However, we would be farther along and spending less if we had taken full advantage of available federal dollars to support the transformation of our health care system.
  • Developing a Vermont health care workforce: We must expand and improve the quality of Vermont’s health care workforce. One example: we don’t have enough nurses in our state, so hospitals hire “traveling nurses” at a high cost from out of state.  Instead, we could train Vermonters to fill these higher wage jobs and provide quality care at a lower cost—employees who would pay income taxes right here in Vermont. And, moving Vermonters to higher wage jobs strengthens families and reduces the tax burden for others.
  • Addressing the Medicaid cliff: We can’t raise wages for less wealthy Vermonters if people feel they must turn down higher wage jobs or reduce their hours to retain their access to Medicaid.
  • Increasing cost transparency: We know the cost of an oil change, a haircut, or a basket of groceries. Why are we not clear with patients about what routine medical procedures cost? More transparency on health care pricing will contribute to reducing costs.

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