RELEASE: Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign condemns 2016 VT Health Connect rate hikes

For Immediate Release: August 13 2015

Contact: Keith Brunner, 802-363-9615

Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign condemns 2016 VT Health Connect rate hikes

Montpelier - Today, the Green Mountain Care Board approved 5.9% and 2.4% average annual rate hikes for 2016 Vermont Health Connect plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) and MVP, respectively. [1] While these numbers are lower than the staggering 8.6% increase initially proposed by BCBS, they represent a failure by the Board to fulfil its mission of ensuring rates that are affordable, promote access to health care, and not unjust or inequitable. [2]

In the context of a health insurance system in which low and middle-income people pay disproportionately more of their income for care which often fails to meet their needs, the campaign insists that any increase in rates is both unjust and inequitable. This point was addressed by dissenting Board member Allan Ramsay, who called attention to the 450+ public comments focusing “on the fact that the rate increases and out-of-pocket costs of Vermont Health Connect are not affordable.” [3]

“How many of the 65,000 people covered by Blue Cross in Vermont will get a 6% raise next year?” asked Megan Sheehan, co-director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, which coordinates the campaign. “The Green Mountain Care Board is condemning thousands of Vermont residents to increased financial hardship, while with Act 48 we have a clear way forward towards a publicly financed healthcare system that would increase equity and dignity.” [4]

Building off of the mandate set out under Act 48, the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign has proposed an equitable model for publicly financing Vermont’s health care system that would expand access to care while lowering healthcare costs for low- and middle-income families. [5] Under this plan, which was introduced in the 2015 legislative session as H.475, BCBS would be dissolved and its assets turned over to a new public corporation that can operate healthcare as a public good. [6]

“Last year the Board approved a 7.7% rate hike,” said Sheehan. “Unless we move from private, market-based insurance to public financing of universal care, we’re going to face rate hikes like this year after year. It’s time to flip the way we pay for care -- with people contributing based on their ability, so that low- and middle-income people pay a smaller share of their income on health care than the wealthy.” [7]

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1] BCBS decision: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/GMCB_008_15rr_Decision.pdf

MVP decision: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/GMCB_005_15rr_Decision.pdf

2] “On review, the Board must determine whether the proposed rate is affordable, promotes quality care, promotes access to health care, protects insurer solvency, and is not unjust, unfair, inequitable, misleading or contrary to Vermont law.” See: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/GMCB_008_15rr_Decision.pdf

3] Ramsay also stated, “The Board must rely on fact, opinion, and analysis when approving a rate increase. The most important opinion is that of Vermonters, who believe continued large rate increases in Vermont Health Connect are not affordable. For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.” Page 14, http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/GMCB_008_15rr_Decision.pdf

4] Act 48, signed into law in 2011, commits the state to “provide, as a public good, comprehensive, affordable, high-quality, publicly financed health care coverage for all Vermont residents in a seamless and equitable manner regardless of income, assets, health status, or availability of other health coverage.” http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2012/Acts/ACT048.pdf

5] Equitable Financing Plan for Vermont’s Universal Healthcare System:

Part 1: http://www.workerscenter.org/sites/default/files/hchr_financing_plan_2015_1a.pdf

Part 2: http://www.workerscenter.org/sites/default/files/hchr_financing_plan_2015_2a.pdf

6] H.475 - An Act Relating to Establishing the Financing Mechanisms for Green Mountain Care:

http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/BILLS/H-0475/H-0475%20As%20Introduced.pdf

7] http://ratereview.vermont.gov/rate_review/BCVT-129572217

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