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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Lt. Gov. Scott Calls for Two Year Delay In Health Care Mandate

Bob Kinzel
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is calling for a change to Vermont's new health care law.

Republicans are stepping up the pressure on Gov. Peter's Shumlin handling of health care issues. Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott led the charge on Wednesday with a call for a delay in mandatory enrollment in the state's new health care exchange. 

Scott says the state’s exchange has run into significant problems because Vermont is the only state in the country to require participation.

He says the mandate needs to be delayed for at least two years because the exchange’s on line payment system has never worked and there’s no timetable for when it will be operational.

"The exchange could be beneficial in the future but it is not ready for prime time right now." Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

To deal with this situation, the Shumlin Administration is allowing businesses to bypass the exchange and buy policies directly from the insurance companies, Blue Cross and MVP. But Scott says this is only a temporary solution.

“At this point in time, with the economy the way it is, businesses are looking for some certainty and this doesn’t do it for them,” said Scott. “So I’m hoping that common sense will prevail and this one size fits all approach would be reconsidered.”

Scott says the two year delay will give state officials the time they need to make certain that the exchange works.

“Let me say up front, that I think this IT system will eventually work,” said Scott. “The exchange could be beneficial in the future. But it’s not ready for prime time right now. As we know it’s been fraught with issues.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin opposes any delay in the exchange mandate. He says Vermont leads the country in per capita enrollment and he says 80 percent of these individuals have qualified for federal subsidies.

“I guess my question would be let’s not delay things that are working,” said Shumlin. “Let’s continue to take the website, take the Affordable Care Act and make it even better, and I think that’s what Vermonters expect us to do.”

The exchange is designed to give employers and their employees at least nine different policy options but businesses that use the direct enrollment plan are limited in the number of policies that are available. That’s one of the reasons why Shumlin wants to get the exchange up and running for small businesses:

“When they buy through MVP or Blue Cross Blue Shield they don’t have that flexibility for obvious administrative reasons,” said Shumlin. “So both MVP and Blue Cross and we have every reason to get the website working for businesses as quickly as we can so that business can have that choice.”

State officials say they won’t activate the online payment system for small businesses until they’re absolutely sure that all elements have been thoroughly tested.