On Friday afternoon, after two days of grueling debate, the Vermont House of Representatives passed the health reform bill (H.559) with a vote of 88-38. The legislation marks the next big step towards high quality, affordable health care for every Vermonter.
In its current form, the bill lays the foundation for Vermont’s health benefit exchange, a virtual market place for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance that is mandated by federal law and must be up and running by October 2013. The bill also clarifies the role of the Green Mountain Care Board in approving hospital budgets and health insurance premium rates. And, it gives the state permission to seek waivers for flexibility in administering federal health care programs, which is a key step to our transition to Green Mountain Care.
While VPIRG believes that there are opportunities to strengthen the legislation, it is still seen as a big victory for health reform supporters as it continues to honor the spirit of Vermont’s larger health reform efforts. Following passage, Rep. Mike Mrowicki said it best, “in Vermont, we take care of our own.”
The bill will be taken up in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee following town meeting week.