The Affordable Care Act, despite its name, is not making health care affordable. One in five people in Vermont are struggling with medical bills. Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, as a “non-profit,” will receive a tax break of over $15 million this year, while ten of its executives are paid up to half a million dollars each.
BCBS has asked the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) to approve a premium increase averaging at 8.4 percent, with increases of up to 14.3 percent on some plans. This is considerably more than most people’s wages rise in a year. This big win for BCBS will do nothing to increase in access to care, especially for people on basic plans with high deductibles and co-pays. If anything points to the need to get the insurance industry out of health care, it is the effrontery of BCBS’s request for premium increases that will make health care less, not more, affordable.
Act 48, Vermont’s universal health care law, created Green Mountain Care “to contain costs and to provide, as a public good, comprehensive, affordable, high-quality, publicly financed health coverage” for all Vermont residents. When deciding on rate requests, the Board is supposed to consider, among other things, whether the request is affordable, promotes access to care, promotes quality care, and is equitable. The proposed rate increases meet none of these criteria and should be rejected by the GMCB.
On July 29, the GMCB will be taking public testimony on the BCBS rate request starting at 1 p.m. at 89 Main St., Montpelier, 2nd floor. Testimony can also be submitted electronically until July 29 at ratereview.vermont.gov.
If you purchase insurance through Vermont Health Connect it is particularly urgent that you let the GMCB know how this will affect you.
Though Vermont is still on the path to universal health care, one big step the GMCB can take is to get the insurance company profiteers out of our health care system. Our bodies and our minds are not commodities or numbers to be crunched by actuaries determined to ensure that insurers come out ahead.
Ellen Schwartz, Brattleboro