Lawmakers May Consider Mandate To Require All Vermonters To Have Health Insurance

Dec 27, 2017

Legislative leaders say they plan to take a close look at a proposal to require that all Vermonters have health insurance.

They're concerned that the elimination of the individual mandate at the federal level could cause private health insurance premiums to significantly increase in Vermont.

One of the top goals of the Republican controlled Congress in 2017 was the elimination of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  The mandate required that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty.

The Republicans achieved their goal when a provision dumping the mandate was included in the recently passed tax bill.

Green Mountain Care Board chairman Kevin Mullin is concerned that the elimination of the mandate could cause premiums to spike in Vermont.

That's because he says anyone who drops their coverage will still receive medical treatment if they get sick and the cost of this care can be shifted over to private insurance policies.

"We've seen a slight uptick in the rise of the cumulative bad debt and free care at the hospitals and I think that this will just add to that further which will put budget pressures on increasing the net patient revenues,” said Mullin.   

"If it does encourage some people to drop their coverage there's no question that it will negatively impact our insurance premiums and so we have to be open minded to how we react to that." — Sen. Tim Ashe

Senate president Tim Ashe says he wants lawmakers to keep a close watch on this situation.

"If it does encourage some people to drop their coverage there's no question that it will negatively impact our insurance premiums and so we have to be open minded to how we react to that,” said Ashe.   

Addison county Sen. Claire Ayer is the chairwoman of the Senate Health Care Committee.

She's concerned about what will happen if a lot of young, healthy Vermonters decide to drop their coverage with the elimination of the mandate.

"I think we should  definitely look at it, just the basics of insurance say that if only the people who are going to put in an insurance claim are the ones who buy insurance then insurance rates will have to go way up,” said Ayer. ”So it makes sense that we need to look at who isn't signing up and why."   

"This is one of those conversations where again the devil lives in the details, exactly what would it be, how would it work, and what would be the scenario if we didn't do it." — AHS Secretary Al Gobeille

Al Gobeille is the Secretary of the Agency of Human Services. He shares the concern of the legislative leaders and he plans to monitor this situation very closely this winter.

"This is one of those conversations where again the devil lives in the details exactly what would it be, how would it work, and what would be the scenario if we didn't do it, meaning is there is a really good reason to do it ?” said Gobeille. “That would have to be measured and weighed."  

And if it turns out that a number of Vermonters do drop their coverage, Gobeille says the Scott Administration will consider backing a state individual mandate.

"I think the governor at that point would take a hard look at this," said Gobeille.  

The Vermont Senate Health Care Committee plans to take testimony on this issue when lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January.