Shumlin Administration Resists Call For Independent Review Of Vt. Health Connect

Mar 30, 2016

House leaders are calling for a comprehensive independent assessment of Vermont Health Connect, the state's health care exchange, to determine the best way to provide coverage to Vermonters in the future.

But the Shumlin administration says the study isn't needed.

The House Health Care committee has looked at this issue for a good part of the session.

It's concluded, on a tri-partisan basis, that an independent third party should evaluate the current problems with Vermont Health Connect and consider the best approach for the future.

Hinesburg Rep. Bill Lippert notes that the Shumlin administration hasn't been able to fix a variety of problems with the exchange on a timely basis, and he thinks it's important to provide Vermont's next governor with an overall assessment of Vermont Health Connect. 

“With a new administration coming in January … we have a responsibility as a Legislature to see that there is an analysis, an assessment done of how to move forward,” Lippert says.

And the assessment, Lippert says, should also include an analysis if Vermont should continue to operate its own state-based exchange or join the federal system.

"With a new administration coming in January ... we have a responsibility as a Legislature to see that there is an analysis, an assessment done of how to move forward." - Rep. Bill Lippert

“If there's a plan that appears viable without moving to the federal exchange, that plan [should] be set forth,” Lippert says. “We think we should also be prepared to have another view of whether moving in full or partially to the federal exchange is the direction we should go."

The House included the study in its budget bill for next year, but didn't allocate any money for it. The estimated price tag is several hundred thousand dollars and Lippert is hoping to persuade the Senate to find the money.

Senate President John Campbell says he likes the idea of the study, but he says money is very tight this year.

“We're facing an incredible pressure on the budget and on expenditures, and I'm really worried about that,” Campbell says.

"We know what [the defects] are and we're working through them, and I really think that's where our energy needs to be focused." - Lawrence Miller, health care chief

Meanwhile, the Shumlin administration thinks the study is a waste of money. Health Care Chief Lawrence Miller says most of the information is already available. He thinks the overall focus should be on solving existing problems.

“There's a clear set of defects that need to be fixed,” Miller says. “We know what they are and we're working through them, and I really think that's where our energy needs to be focused."

Miller says the administration will certainly cooperate with the study, if that's what lawmakers eventually decide.