Lt. Gov. Candidates’ Health Care Positions Influenced By Experiences

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(Host) The two leading candidates for lieutenant governor have very different ideas about the future of health care reform in Vermont.

And as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, their positions are largely influenced by their own personal experiences.

(Kinzel) Republican candidate Phil Scott is a co-owner of a construction company in central Vermont that employs roughly 40 people.

He says health care costs for his employees have skyrocketed over the past decade, so several years ago, Scott’s company ditched its traditional health care policy and adopted a health savings account plan for its employees.

Here’s how it works. The company buys a catastrophic policy for each worker with a high deductible. 

Then it places the amount of the deductible in a health savings account for the employee to use during the course of the year.

Scott says this approach saves money and puts the employee more in charge of their own health care.

(Scott) "It really does fall into what I have considered important in self reliance and self responsibility and not being insulated from your health care in many different ways."

(Kinzel) If there’s money left over in the health savings account at the end of the year, it’s rolled over to the next year. Scott thinks it encourages his employees to pay more attention to health prevention programs.

(Scott) "So when you have that health savings account and you can see the more healthy you are the more you can receive, it’s a benefit. It’s almost an incentive to be healthier."

(Kinzel) Democrat Steve Howard has developed a different approach to health care reform, in part, because he says he can’t afford to buy coverage with his limited income as a self-employed consultant.

(Howard) "I don’t have health insurance. I did until last year. And then I just couldn’t manage it. I had just enough money to be over the ability to be able to get any kind of subsidy under Catamount, but not enough to be able to pay my student loans and pay for my car repairs and pay for all my expenses and also be covered."

(Kinzel) Howard wants Vermont to adopt a single payer health care system where individuals receive their coverage independent of their workplace.  He says this approach has a lot of advantages.

(Howard) "My support for single payer is based on the fact that it’s the best system for reducing health care costs and making sure all Vermonters are covered and get the right care at the right time. … Because we’re rooting out waste. We’re rooting out marketing. We’re getting the profits out of health care. And we’re putting nurses and patients and Vermonters first."

(Kinzel) There are questions when a single payer system could be implemented in Vermont under the new federal health care law.  The legislation establishes 2017 as the earliest date. But the state’s congressional delegation says it’s possible that the date could be moved up to 2014 if the state is able to win a waiver from the federal government.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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