GOP Leaders Want To Slow Down On Health Care Reform

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(Host) Republican leaders in the Vermont House say a health care reform bill is being rushed through without enough study or input from Vermonters.

And they’re concerned about the cost of setting up a new Health Care Board that will oversee virtually all aspects of health care in the state.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The bill establishes so called federal exchanges to allow the state to draw down millions of federal dollars to streamline the health care administrative process. 

It also creates a new five person Board that will oversee hospital budgets and private health insurance premiums. The Board will also design new payment systems to help the state move away from the current fee for service model.                                                 

Milton Rep. Don Turner is the Republican leader in the House.  He says lawmakers need more time to study the plan because he says the bill may be built on faulty assumptions.

(Turner) "Nobody has shown us the actual savings. There’s this whole "trust me" type feeling in the air that we all should just buy in and hope this is the right way to go and sign up for this stuff. And then by the way 2013 – the year after the election – we’re going to figure out how much it costs and how we’re going to pay for it."

(Kinzel) House Speaker Shap Smith disagrees. He says the situation is urgent because overall health care costs are rising by a million dollars a day.

(Smith) "The issue of cost containment is a very present one and can not actually be subject to further delay…to my way of thinking. I think that the House Republicans and Republican leaders would want to join us in moving as quickly as possible towards issues of cost containment."

(Kinzel) The initial budget for the Board is roughly $2 million and 10 employees from the Banking and Insurance Department will be shifted over to work with the board.

Under the Governor’s plan, the chair of the Board will make $160,000 and the part time members will receive $107,000.  GOP leader Turner thinks these salaries are much too high.

(Turner) "I think that’s a lot of money. What are we going to pay these exorbitant salaries that we’ve seen the Administration be willing to pay…if we’re going to show that we’re going to save money we better start at the beginning".

(Kinzel) But the Governor says the Board’s budget is a small investment to control health care costs.

(Shumlin) "No one has figured out cost containment. If we can get that done for a fraction of our overall health care spending Vermont wins we grow jobs we grow economic opportunities for Vermonters. There’s no doubt about it."

(Kinzel) The House Health Care committee is expected to vote on the bill by the end of the week.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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