Senate pushes ahead with health care reform despite administration delays


The Vermont Senate doesn't intend to sit on its hands when it comes to health care reform this session.

Senators say they are intent on ensuring the transition to a universal publicly financed health care system be smoother than the rollout of Vermont Health Connect.

Gov. Peter Shumlin last week announced that the administration would not present a financing plan for the program this year.

Democratic senators, who don't want to create problems for the governor or a program they support, still want to make meaningful progress toward universal health care this session.

Senators on the Finance and Health and Welfare committees plan to take an existing bill from the House, scrap it and use it to introduce legislation they hope will achieve that goal.

It will flag areas of reform they can move forward with legislation this session and what areas they need to understand better, Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, said.

The legislation will attempt to create better oversight for upcoming health IT projects, clarify what questions lawmakers need answered to define the Green Mountain Care benefits package and develop a process and timeline for hiring a third party to administer the program.

The bill would require bids for third party administration to go out by July 1, 2015; contracts would be awarded by Dec. 15, 2015.

Health Reform Director Robin Lunge told the Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday that would be setting the administration up for failure, and wouldn't help lawmakers achieve their goals.

A better way to move forward would be for legislators to request an operations plan by a certain date that Lunge and the administration could then provide to help legislators make informed decisions.

"The flip side, Robin, is there's some difficult political decisions we have to make, and we want to be ready to make those decisions," Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, said.

Sen. Anthony Polina, D/P/W-Washington, agreed.

"We can only do so much before we hear more from the administration," he told Lunge. "I don't want to find out that I have to make a decision in a week, when I've been waiting three years to see a plan."


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