VPIRG Health Care Priorities for 2013
Keep the state moving toward Green Mountain Care
At VPIRG, the goal of our health care program is to ensure access to high quality affordable health care for all Vermonters. To achieve this, it is essential that we maintain Vermonters’ confidence that we can make meaningful changes in health care reform as a state. This year we will work with the administration and community leaders to educate Vermonters about the changes the exchange will bring, and how these changes fit in to broader health care reforms.
Maintain benefits at current levels for Vermonters transitioning from Catamount and VHAP into the exchange
To move the state forward on the path to Green Mountain Care it is essential that we minimize negative impacts consumers might face when entering the exchange. We are particularly concerned about Vermonters who are currently enrolled in the VHAP and Catamount health programs. When these programs go away in 2014, hard working Vermonters will see a significant increase in what they will be asked to pay out of pocket for their health care.
In real world terms this means that a couple making $45,000 a year could be asked to pay as much as $16,808 in health care costs in a year. An individual making $33,500 could be asked to pay $9,430. Respectively these costs represent 37% and 28% of these Vermonters’ gross income. Faced with these prospects, it is easy to see how many Vermonters will make the choice to pay the minimal fine and take their chances going without insurance. If we do not address this problem, not only will we see thousands of Vermonters put at risk of being underinsured, but we will be taking a serious step backward in our efforts to reduce our state’s uninsured population.
Ensure adequate consumer protection in Vermont’s health care system
As the state’s largest consumer protection organization we are particularly concerned with ensuring there is adequate support for Vermonters when they begin enrolling in Vermont Health Connect this October. This transition will be difficult, and for many Vermonters this will be their first taste of health care reform efforts. For these reasons, it is essential that we make enrollment go as smoothly as possible. This session we look forward to seeing the recommendations put forth in the Act 171 report, and how the state can use those recommendations to strengthen Vermont’s consumer protection framework.
The Health Care Ombudsman’s office currently offers Vermonters comprehensive consumer assistance in all health care matters. We need to ensure that they have the resources necessary to continue these services as Vermonters begin the transition to the exchange. This will not only help Vermonters navigate these difficult waters, but is also one of the most important things that we can do to maintain support for the state’s larger health care reform efforts.
As part of our consumer protection work we also want to make sure Vermonters have the ability to have their voice heard in rate review cases in front of the Green Mountain Care Board. This fall, VPIRG launched its rate review program in order to bring consumer voices into the rate review process, and we look forward to finding ways to increase transparency and amplify consumer voices in future cases. In particular, we are interested in examining ways to provide understandable information to consumers about the underlying causes of their rate increases so they can have a meaningful voice in the review process.
Increase access to dental care for Vermonters
Every year, approximately 70,000 adults in Vermont go without adequate dental care because they cannot afford it. At VPIRG, we continue to hear horror stories from our members about the negative impacts the lack of access to dental care has on their lives. As part of the Vermont Oral Health Care for All coalition, we are committed to finding ways to improve access to dental care in Vermont. To help address these issues we recommend the state create a licensed dental practitioner program. Dental Practitioners, also known as Dental Therapists, are dental professionals who have more extensive training than dental hygienists, but less extensive than dentists. Dental therapists have been used internationally for almost a century and have been shown to increase access and to provide quality care within their scope of practice. By creating a licensed dental practitioner program, we can take a large step toward addressing the lack of access to dental care here in Vermont.