Federal Government Will Help Subsidize Catamount Health

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(Host) The federal government has agreed to help Vermont subsidize a state health insurance program.

Governor Jim Douglas says the federal payments should save the state about $9 million over the next two years.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The federal assistance is targeted at the Catamount health insurance program. The Obama administration recently agreed to help subsidize the cost of premiums for those whose incomes are up to three times the federal poverty level. For a family of two, that’s an income of about $36,000 a year.

Governor Jim Douglas announced the federal decision at his weekly news conference.

(Douglas) "I’m really pleased that the federal government has once again seen the wisdom of Vermont‘s innovative approach to health care. This is certainly welcome news at a difficult time, although obviously it’s just a piece of the puzzle."

(Dillon) The decision reverses a Bush administration ruling that capped the federal assistance for people enrolled in Catamount at twice the federal poverty level.

Douglas said he and his staff negotiated successfully with the Obama administration, including Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor who now heads the Health and Human Services Agency.

(Douglas) "It’s helpful to have a former gubernatorial colleague in that role, because she understand what states are confronting, what governors are dealing with in health care and other important public programs."

(Dillon) The federal assistance will help cover the Catamount premiums for about 2,400 people. Douglas said the feds have also agreed to underwrite pharmacy benefits as well.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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