Opinion
November 19, 2014

Vermont wants to control Medicare

Dear Editor,

Now that the truth is out of the bag, thanks to Vermont Digger and others, it is clear that our Legislature passed Act 48 with the intent to capture and control Medicare and Medicaid payments and services. What is unclear is, with all the denying coming from the administration and their representatives, did they, or did our elected representatives, even read or know what they were agreeing to when they passed Act 48?

There have been many articles and letters in various publications stating that Vermont single payer is the only way to proceed. And it must be inclusive of all Vermonters as well and will save us millions of dollars (according to some highly paid outside consultants). According to recently released Federal data, medical costs have only gone up 1.9 percent while Green Mountain Care-approved Vermont insurance increases close to 10 percent. If I am not mistaken the so-called hired experts predicted continued spiraling medical cost increases of 10 percent per year to justify potential single payer savings.

My point is that our governor is bent on implementing a major reorganization of Vermont health care, before he knows the costs, benefits and facts of how it would or could, be implemented.

One of my major concerns about the governor’s approach is: as a veteran and retired federal employee, will I be allowed to keep my existing Medicare and Federal insurance (FEHB) that I now pay for? Those questions could impact thousands of retired Vermonters, veterans, postal workers and federal employees who now receive those benefits, although paid for, through various federal programs, including: Medicare parts B & D, Medicare Advantage, and medigap insurance programs. Many of those programs by law cannot be reinstated if the retired recipient is forced to give them up in Vermont.

At one point it was mentioned there was a planned opt-out provision; however, according to some feedback from our legislators, those that did opt out would, nonetheless, still be required to pay through fees, taxes, or other means, even knowing that withdrawing from their existing health care plans was not a viable option, especially considering the potential mobility of retirees to other states.

Another related and unanswered issue is: would Vermont single payer cover medical expenses incurred out of state, or out of the country like many of the federal plans do? Or would those Vermonters have to pay out of pocket, if they even could afford to, and then fight with Vermont single payer to be reimbursed after the fact?

Several months ago I had written to our governor asking about these and other issues and, although I got an acknowledgement, I never received any answers. I have also written to several of our federal legislators asking that these issues be resolved at the federal level prior to granting Vermont waivers. Thus far they appear to be relying on Governor Shumlin to adequately address these issues, which in my opinion is wishful thinking at the expense of thousands of retired Vermonters.

Somewhat related, I was contacted by a health care policy analyst in the administration and I asked about the status of those critical federal waivers. At this point he could only point me to a broad policy statement contained in a link to a document, dated Feb. 6 that stated, in part, “all residents will be enrolled in the program” and, “Shared Responsibility for Large Employers” (large employer penalty). The administration’s timing regarding big business penalties in Vermont couldn’t worse if they tried.

Marty Post, Killington

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