Letter, Opinion

What unaffordable healthcare means in Vt

Dear Editor,

Kevin Mullin, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), called our state’s health insurance premiums “unaffordable” in 2019. Those premiums have since risen, and double digit-plus increases were just approved for both Blue Cross and MVP, making health care far more unaffordable. Our hospitals are requesting major increases in their budgets that will translate to yet higher premiums.

“Unaffordable” is a very abstract idea, but it produces very real harm to very large numbers of very real people in Vermont. The 2021 Vermont Household Health Insurance Survey indicates that 38% of Vermonters under age 65 are underinsured, while 32.3% of those on Medicare are underinsured. The Census Bureau publishes county data which includes total population and the portion of it that is 65 and over.

Applying the household survey percentages to the Census Bureau’s July 21, 2021 population estimates of each county, this is how many people are underinsured in each Vermont county:

  • Addison: 13,694
  • Bennington: 13,674
  • Caledonia: 11,170
  • Chittenden: 62,609
  • Essex: 2,160
  • Franklin: 18,633
  • Grand Isle: 2,725
  • Lamoille: 9,657
  • Orange: 10,847
  • Orleans: 10,097
  • Rutland: 22,210
  • Washington: 22,077
  • Windham: 16,868
  • Windsor: 21,298

For all 14 counties in Vermont 237,719 are underinsured.

These are your friends and neighbors, praying nobody gets sick, opting for higher deductibles to get lower premiums, struggling to pay cash until the deductible is met, sinking into debt.

These are the constituents of our legislators and our governor. How can they allow this to go on?

Candidates in the upcoming election should tell us what they plan to do about this. If nothing, have the courage to say so. If something, tell us what.

Our state’s journalists should be pressing the candidates on this crisis. Every public debate should address it and address it in depth.

Every person who cares about this widespread misery should be saying so out loud, especially to their legislators, the governor, and their local media.

Courage is apparently harder to find than misery.

Lee Russ,

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