Several weeks ago, 2,100 state employees with children received a memo from the Shumlin Administration that could change the way that these children receive health care coverage. The idea is to have these employees drop their children from their state health care plan and then enroll them in Dr. Dinosaur.
Households with less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for the program. For a household of three people the income cap is roughly $56,000.
Here’s how it would work. Let’s say you’re a single parent with two kids. Right now you pay around 45 hundred dollars a year for what is considered a family plan.
But if the kids are shifted over to Dr. Dinosaur, the parent could buy a single person policy at a personal savings of roughly $2,000 a year and the state would save around $10,000. If half of the eligible state employees made this change, the state could save over $5 million a year.
Mark Larson is the Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. He explained, "It’s an opportunity that we wanted state employees to be able to make a choice about. It does provide an opportunity for coverage to be more affordable for a family and it does provide some opportunity for the state to provide health coverage for the family at less expense to the state."
Jeff Wennberg is the executive director of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom – a group that opposes Governor Shumlin’s proposal to implement a single payer system in Vermont.
Wennberg says this new plan, involving the kids of state employees, goes beyond the original concept of Dr. Dinosaur.
"I think a lot of Vermonters ought to take a close look at this and try to decide whether they really feel comfortable that shifting some or ultimately all of the coverage that right now is provided privately, onto taxpayers," said Wennberg. "Is that a direction that we really do support?"
But Larson says the plan is consistent with the initial policies of the Dr. Dinosaur program.
"These has been no change to the eligibility of Dr. Dinosaur to be able to provide this opportunity to state employees," He said. "This is not an expansion this is just an option that has historically been available and we’re simply providing information about it."
Larson says the state could accrue additional savings because the federal government pays roughly 70 percent of the costs of the Dr. Dinosaur program.