MONTPELIER — Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano plans to wipe out health care reform efforts made under Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin if he wins election in November.
Feliciano, in a State House news conference Wednesday morning, outlined his plans to shutter Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, and abolish the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s regulatory body that oversees hospital budgets and will play a major role in Shumlin’s proposed universal, publicly financed health care system.
“As Vermont’s next governor, I will close Vermont Health Connect and save millions in taxpayer dollars that are being used to fix it. I will save Vermonters even more money in 2017 as it’s estimated to cost $36 million to continue to run Vermont Health Connect,” Feliciano said.
If all goes according to Shumlin’s plans, the state won’t need the troubled online exchange in 2017 because it will implement his proposal, often referred to as a single-payer system. But Feliciano wants to halt Vermont’s march toward single payer, too.
He said Vermonters have “suffered a great deal of harm” since the state passed Act 48, the legislation that serves as the foundation for Shumlin’s plan. Feliciano said Wednesday he will look to repeal Act 48.
He said the push for a single-payer system, continuing on the heels of the exchange’s technology challenges, is simply “to fulfill Peter Shumlin’s fantasy of being the first governor to implement single payer.”
“We can provide affordable health care for Vermonters, but the government needs to get out of the way,” Feliciano said.
His plan involves moving people from the state’s own exchange to the site operated by the federal government. “By doing so we’ll also provide Vermonters with more plan choices, lower-cost insurance and a system that works,” Feliciano said.
But it would also mean that state-level subsidies for insurance, which Vermont can provide because it operates its own exchange, would no longer be allowed. Feliciano admitted when questioned by a reporter that details about lost subsidies have not been worked out.
“We’d have to figure out how that migration would work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Feliciano said a nonprofit group could be established to oversee hospital budgets. The Green Mountain Care Board, which he aims to abolish, currently has that regulatory authority.
“We can put together a team, a collaborative team of providers and insurers at a nonprofit,” he said.
But that group would not have regulatory authority, according to Feliciano, and he provided no details on how budgets would be constrained.
“I don’t know if there would be no regulation,” he said. “What I’m saying is it can be done better by a nonprofit agency that’s not elected or appointed, that has more skin in the game.”
Junking the board is necessary because “there’s no accountability,” Feliciano said.
“It’s an appointed body, a political body that’s appointed,” he said. “This is about returning choice to the people.”
Feliciano said his system would look to include more private insurance plans. However, changes to the state’s insurance regulations would be required “to make it more appealing to the health insurers.”
“I’m aware that the current regulatory environment is restrictive and many insurers don’t want to operate in the state. We’ll have to look at those existing laws and see how we can make it more amenable to open up the market to other insurers,” he said.
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