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

Speaker Smith Wants Oversight Of Health Care Exchange

You can add House Speaker Shap Smith to the list of people who are frustrated and upset about the technical problems that have affected the state’s new health care exchange.

Since it went on line five weeks ago, thousands of Vermonters have had difficulty logging on to the website of Vermont Health Connect and the electronic payment system has never worked.  Smith says to say he’s disappointed by the difficult roll out of the exchange is “an understatement.”

"I do think that there is an oversight. I think it is time for us to take stock of how the roll out has happened." - House Speaker Shap Smith

“This is a big deal. It’s a huge transformation in the way that people are going to be able to buy insurance and get access to affordable health care,” said Smith. “And I think it’s clear that we haven’t gotten this rolling the way that anybody would have liked.”

And Smith believes that it’s appropriate for the Legislature to oversee the operations of Vermont Health Connect.

“I do think that there’s an oversight. I think it’s time for us to take stock of how the roll out has happened what we’re hearing from Vermonters in regard to the products that are available,” said Smith.  “Maybe give some feedback to the Green Mountain Care Board as well as the Department of Financial Regulation who are the entities that were shaping the type of coverage that would be available. I think those are the things that we’re going to need to look at.”

But Smith says it would be a mistake to overlook the primary purpose of the Affordable Care Act and that’s to provide cost effective health insurance coverage to all people.

“That’s what the goal is at the national level that’s what the goal is at the state level some standardization of plans and making sure that people have access to subsidies have some choice within the plans that they do get through their employers so we need to focus on that,” said Smith. “My hope is that we’ll be able to get to a place we need to be with the exchange by the middle of December and move forward.”

State officials say they’re confident that the Exchange’s basic technical problems will be ironed out before Thanksgiving.

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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