State News

GOP tells Shumlin to shut down Vermont Health Connect

By Anne Galloway,

The Vermont GOP, newly strengthened by an unexpectedly close gubernatorial race and gains in the House and Senate, sent a message to Gov. Peter Shumlin in the aftermath of Election Day upsets: Drop Vermont Health Connect immediately and transfer Vermonters in the program to federal health care exchange.

Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, the minority leader of the House, urged the governor to shut down the state exchange, which has cost $100 million and still does not work properly, as soon as possible.

Turner said this “urgent matter” could not wait. He said leaders in the House and Senate must draft legislation immediately because “the chaos and mismanagement continues.” Turner vowed to work with Democrats and Progressives to develop a bipartisan proposal that would be taken up the first week in January and signed into law before the budget address.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, who was re-elected in a landslide on Tuesday, said 27 states have utilized the federal exchange at this point, and leaders have an obligation to offer Vermonters stability and certainty. “It’s not as though we have an exchange that is functioning right now, so the alternative is something that is workable,” Scott said.

The next Vermont Health Connect enrollment period starts Nov. 15. The state’s website has been offline for more than a month as contract IT companies scramble to fix problems with basic functionality. It is not clear whether the website will be ready for new enrollees by the deadline. People who already have insurance through the exchange have been encouraged to re-enroll by snail mail.

If the Shumlin administration went to the federal exchange, the state could no longer offer subsidies through the Vermont Premium Assistance Program, according to Peter Sterling of Vermont Leads, a single payer advocacy group.

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