RELEASE: Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign responds to decision on Vermont Health Connect rates

UVM Medical Center nurse Maggie Belensz testifying

Photo: UVM Medical Center nurse and union member Maggie Belensz testifies on July 20th at the Green Mountain Care Board.

For Immediate Release: 10 August 2017

Contact: Keith Brunner, 802.363.9615

Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign responds to decision on Vermont Health Connect rates

Montpelier - Today the Green Mountain Care Board approved a 9.2 percent increase for next year’s Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Vermont Health Connect premiums, raising the cost of care for the 70,000 residents who purchase BCBS plans on the exchange. The decision came one day after the board approved a 3.5 percent hike in MVP plans, affecting an additional 10,000 people in our state.

The Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign condemns the decision by the board, which will significantly raise the cost of living for low-income and working people in Vermont. The Campaign points out that so long as Vermont’s elected officials refuse to implement Green Mountain Care and guarantee healthcare as a public good, the market-based insurance model will continue to throw our families into medical debt and crisis. [1]

Over 150 people submitted some form of public comment calling on the board to reject the rate increases. [2] 

Burlington resident Sarah O’Donnell wrote that, “As a young healthy person already struggling to pay my monthly premiums, a rate increase could very likely price me out of any health coverage.”

Laura Assermilly of Middlebury said, “I can't bear a rate increase. I lost my VT public school teaching job in 2007 due to declining enrollment. In my fifties with 10 years of experience to recognize, I couldn't get another public school teaching job [where I live]...I'm barely managing the premium I pay and that's subsidized.”

Debra Stoleroff of Plainfield shared that, “...I am finding my BCBS health care premiums, deductibles and co-pays have already risen to a point that I have to choose between my personal health and the expenses I have to pay out…As members of the Green Mountain Care Board, you have a responsibility to reject these unaffordable rate hikes, and do everything possible to move our state towards providing healthcare as a public good for all.”

With today’s decision, Vermont Health Connect premiums for people with BCBS plans will have risen by a cumulative 36 percent from 2014 - 2018, while average wages for Vermont residents rose by less than five percent from 2014 - 2016. [3, 4] Meanwhile, last week BCBS attempted to strike wage and GDP comparisons from the rate-setting process - an outrageous move for a company that paid its CEO $635,000 last year. [5, 6]

Faced with the failure of the market-based health insurance model, the Campaign urges legislators to equitably fund and fully implement Green Mountain Care. H.475, introduced in 2015, proposed an equitable mix of income-based, nonwage income, and payroll taxes to fund the program, and could serve as a model for new legislation. [7] 

NOTES FOR EDITORS 

  1. The Shumlin administration found that implementing Green Mountain Care would result in a higher net family income for 9 out of 10 Vermont families, in addition to providing higher quality and more expansive healthcare. See Green Mountain Care final report, Table 19: http://hcr.vermont.gov/sites/hcr/files/pdfs/GMC%20FINAL%20REPORT%20123014.pdf
  2. Public comments available here: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/2017/MERGED%202018%20Exchange%20Filings%20Combined%20public%20comment%20with%20name%20and%20town_08_02_2017.pdf
  3. GMCB decisions 2015-2018: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/bcbsvt-rate-review-decision-made. These increases follow a 70 percent rise in health insurance costs from 2003-2013. See “State of Working Vermont 2015 Report,” page 8: http://publicassets.org/library/publications/reports/state-of-working-vermont-2015/
  4. VT Department of Labor Statistics: http://www.vtlmi.info/indnaics.htm#mqa.
  5. BCBS-VT CEO Don George made $635,000 in salaries and benefits in 2016: http://www.dfr.vermont.gov/sites/default/files/BCBSVT%20-%20Act%20152%202016.pdf
  6. BCBS Motion to Strike New Evidence: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/sites/dfr/files/2017/BCBSVT%20QHP%20rate%20filing%20Motion%20to%20Strike%20Docket%208-17rr%2008022017%20%28002%29.pdf
  7. H.475, introduced in 2015 by Representatives Davis, Burke, Christie, Donahue, Fields, Gonzalez, Krowinski, McCormack, and McCullough, would establish income-based, nonwage income, and payroll taxes to support Green Mountain Care: http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2016/Docs/BILLS/H-0475/H-0475%20As%20Introduced.pdf

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