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

Lt. Governor Phil Scott Wants To Delay Health Care Exchange

For several months, Lt. Governor Phil Scott has been voicing concerns about the technical components of the state’s new health care exchange, known as Vermont Health Connect.  Scott is the highest ranking statewide Republican officeholder in Vermont.

Allow enough time for all the testing that should have been done probably before we rolled this out to do it now - Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

Since it was launched three and a half weeks ago, Vermont Health Connect has encountered a number of serious technical problems and state officials are scrambling to fix these problems as soon as possible.

This week, Governor Peter Shumlin said he has “absolute confidence” that the problems can be ironed out in the next few weeks.

Scott says at least 75,000 Vermonters are expected to purchase policies on Vermont Health Connect for coverage that begins in January, and he thinks it would be prudent to delay the full implementation of the federal law for a few months.

“I would think that there might be an opportunity where we could just extend that period of time and just roll back the clock just a little bit or roll forward until mid year and do the same thing again,” said Scott. “Allow enough time for all the testing that should have been done probably before we rolled this out to do it now.”

The main contractor for the Vermont exchange is CGI.  The company has missed a number of project deadlines and faces at least 5 million dollars in fines. The Governor says imposing these penalties at this time would impede the effort to resolve the current technical issues.

Scott doesn’t agree with the Governor’s approach.  Scott owns a construction firm in central Vermont and he says the imposition of penalties is an incentive for contractors to meet future deadlines:.

“We have deadlines that we have to make and some of them are with the state and when you do that you either make the deadline or you pay penalties – you pay penalties almost every day,” said Scott. “So there are times if you don’t, if that’s in the contract, and you know what the drop dead date is, it doesn’t matter we’re paying those penalties and we have to finish the job.”

Scott acknowledges that his approach to this issue is quite different from the Governor’s but Scott says he doesn’t want these disagreements to develop into a bitter partisan debate.

“So this would be an easy one to turn into a partisan political battle and that’s what we have to avoid,” said Scott. “We have to avoid what happened there and that’s what I’m encouraging everyone to do.”

Scott also says it would also be a good idea for the Shumlin Administration to release its contingency plans for dealing with ongoing problems at Vermont Health Connect.

The Governor says he’s not going release those options right now because his entire focus is on the effort to fix the problems with Vermont Health Connect.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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