Budget crisis may force cuts in Vermont’s health care programs

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Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 (Host) The leader of the Vermont Senate says the state’s budget crisis may force lawmakers to cut health care programs.

Senate President Peter Shumlin outlined his priorities for the legislative session that begins in January. He said the legislature and the administration have to cut the budget by another $60 million this year, and by at least $100 million next year.

Shumlin said the Catamount health plan – which provides coverage to uninsured Vermonters – may be on the chopping block.

(Shumlin) "I do not think Catamount will survive … under the current circumstances because it is not adequately funded."

(Host) The state now spends about $19 million on Catamount. Shumlin questions whether the state will have the money to pay for it in the long run.

(Shumlin) "If you look at the kind of cuts that we’re talking about right now as we deal with the $60 million, it is really tough stuff. There are three areas in the state of Vermont where we spend money: health care, prisons and education. And we all know there isn’t a lot of fat. We cut the fat in the last $40 million in cuts. So it is tough choice time. So I don’t believe that Catamount is sustainable without help."

(Host) Shumlin hopes the federal government steps in with more money for transportation projects and health care programs.

He says he would not rule out a potential tax increase to make up the revenue shortfall. But Shumlin says he believes the state has already reached the limits of its tax capacity.

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