The head of the Green Mountain Care Board is calling on Congress to restore the individual subsidies to the Affordable Care Act that have been eliminated by President Donald Trump.
Board chairman Kevin Mullin says premiums for next year "won't be pretty" if Congress doesn't address this issue in the coming months.
The president's decision to eliminate the cost sharing provisions of the Affordable Care Act will initially affect roughly 13,000 Vermonters who qualify for the subsidies.
These include individuals with incomes under $30,000 a year and a family of four with an income under $62,000.
In total, the federal government sends about $12 million a year directly to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP to lower premiums.
Mullin says rates have been established for the new enrollment period and won't be changed. However, it's uncertain if adjustments will be needed during the next 12 months.
“More than likely most of the impact on rates will be for the following year," said Mullin.
Some states are seeking a federal waiver to be able to offer policies with a scaled back benefit plan and much higher deductibles. Mullin says it would be a big mistake for Vermont to consider this option.
"Because all it takes is one bad event to occur and somebody will have one heck of an insurance bill and so I don't think it's really in the best interests of Vermont to even look at that path,” said Mullin.
Mullin says it's critical for Congress to restore the subsidies and strengthen the Affordable Care Act in a bipartisan manner.
"That's what it's going to take, it's going to take people from both parties working together to craft a solution because, let's face it, Obamacare had some problems as well,” said Mullin.
But Mullin says rates could soar next year if Congress doesn't restore the subsidies.
"I think that we have enough time to figure this out. But if something isn't figured out next year's rates are not going to look pretty," said Mullin.
Rep. Peter Welch is part of a bipartisan group of 40 House members backing legislation to improve the Affordable Care Act.
Their plan calls for making a long term commitment to the subsidies, creating a reinsurance pool for people with severe health problems, and giving states more flexibility to implement innovative cost-saving proposals.
Welch says many of his Republican colleagues represent districts where thousands of people will lose their subsidies. He says he plans to meet with these members to undersore the consequence of eliminating the subsidies.
"And just have a conversation with them [to] say this is what happens to us in Vermont, it's going to hurt us, it's going to hurt our taxpayers, it's going to hurt folks on health care. What's the impact in your district? And if they haven't looked it up I'll tell them," said Welch.
Welch is convinced that the bipartisan approach can be successful only if President Trump joins the effort.
"That provides a lot of cover and support for Republican members who have to make a tough vote given their districts. So the President can play a role to help Congress, particularly on the Republican side, to come to an agreement," said Welch.
In a related story, Attorney General T.J. Donovan has announced that the state of Vermont has joined with 17 other states and the District of Columbia to challenge the president's decision in federal court.