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

GMCB Promises Close Review Of Proposed Health Insurance Rates

Vermont Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille says he's wary of any plan that would put impede access to health care for low-income Vermonters.
Angela Evancie
Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille is promising a close review of proposed rate increases proposed this week by Blue Cross and MVP

The head of the Green Mountain Care Board is promising a close review of proposed rate increases proposed this week by Blue Cross and MVP.

Board chairman Al Gobeille says changes in the federal Affordable Care Act are the biggest factor in the rate requests. He says the filings also show that Vermont’s health care costs are increasing at a very moderate level.

Earlier this week, Blue Cross filed for a nearly 10 percent increase in rates for individual and small business policies sold on Vermont’s health care exchange. At the same time, MVP filed a request for a 15 percent increase.

"If we had not had the hard work that has occurred in the state to bend the cost curve, the rates would be much higher." GMCB Chairman Al Gobeille

The proposed rate requests will be reviewed by the Green Mountain Care Board following a 90 day public comment period.

Gobeille says more than half of the rate increase is directly related to changes to federal insurance laws that were included in the Affordable Care Act.

He says this means that the growth rate of health care expenses in Vermont during the last year is under five percent and he says this is a sign that some of Board’s cost containment strategies are beginning to pay off.

“If we hadn’t had the hard work that has occurred in the state by health care professionals, by providers, to work to bend the cost curve the rates would be much higher,” said Gobeille. “So they are what they are at this point, we need to check and see what we think of their assumptions whhich we will do over the next three months.”

Gobeille says there’s no doubt in his mind that it won’t be possible to implement a single payer health care system in Vermont unless a comprehensive cost containment plan is put into place first.

“You have to work on the payment delivery system before you would want to come up with a financing  plan because the question becomes what are you financing?” said Gobeille. “I think that if we had rushed to a financing plan without having what I would refer to as a payment delivery plan that would not have been wise.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to put a single payer system in place in 2017. Gobeille isn’t sure that this timeframe can be met.

“I think it’s too early to tell right now but the conversations that we’re having across the state are going well and so we’re not doing the cost control to meet the 2017 date. We’re working on cost control and doing it right and being very careful with what we are doing because we’re talking about the health of Vermonters here.”

The Governor says he’ll unveil his plan to finance a single payer health system when lawmakers return to the Statehouse next January.

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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