Gubernatorial candidates share health care plans

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(Host) Vermont’s gubernatorial candidates are proposing very different strategies to bring health care costs under control.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) All the candidates say that the skyrocketing cost of health care is one of the most important issues raised by voters this fall.

Republican candidate Jim Douglas argues that private health insurance premiums have risen sharply in recent years because of the state’s community rating mandate. This provision requires companies to charge the same premium for all consumers regardless of their age or health status.

(Douglas) “We need more insurance companies, not fewer. We need to get them back in here to compete to provide different policies and options for Vermonters and that will, I believe, provide some competitive pressure on premiums. We need to revisit community rating – the regulatory mechanism that has driven a lot of insurance companies out of Vermont – so that insurers can assess their risk as other carriers do.”

(Kinzel) Democrat Doug Racine opposes Douglas’ plan to change the community rating system because he says it would dramatically increase premiums for older Vermonters and those with health problems.

Racine says the state has made great progress in recent years in reducing the number of people who don’t have health insurance and he wants to target the growing cost of prescription drugs:

(Racine) “For Vermont to make continued progress, we need to get those costs under control. The goal here in Vermont is universal access to high quality, affordable health care. And with the costs spiraling out of control, no matter what you call your system, we aren’t going to get there. I’m going to continue our very strong focus on getting prescription drugs costs under control.”

(Kinzel) Independent candidate Con Hogan has proposed streamlining the administrative costs of health care. Hogan also wants to set up a pilot program with Medicaid recipients to see if a program that offers a strong preventative health benefits package will help lower costs:

(Hogan) “One thing we know about the Medicaid population is, very often the first time we see them is in the emergency room. That’s the most expensive level of care. Let’s reward them for go getting a physical, let’s give them double dollars. Because those dollars are not that expensive at that level of care. I’d love to do just like we did with welfare reform: Measure it for four years, see what happens and then take the next step.”

(Kinzel) Progressive candidate Michael Badamo is backing a single payer Canadian-style health care system as the best way to extend health care coverage to all Vermonters at a reasonable cost.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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