Vermont Republican leaders want health reform success


MONTPELIER -- The three top Republicans in the Vermont Legislature said Tuesday they want the state’s health care exchange to succeed but state residents are fed up with the problems the system is having and more options should be considered to ensure those problems are fixed.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning and House Minority Leader Don Turner spoke a day after the administration of Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the state is reducing its ties with CGI, the company that developed the problem-plagued Vermont Health Connect website.

The three made a variety of suggestions including changing the leadership of Vermont’s health overhaul efforts and working with other states to develop a single health care system.

"We’re not alone in this," Scott said, noting that a number of states have had trouble rolling out their versions of Vermont Health Connect. "But at the same time I think we should learn from the mistakes we’ve made and the mistakes of others in terms of getting it right this time."

He said neighboring states could consider working together to use a single exchange although the idea is not well formed and he hasn’t spoken with officials in other states about it.

On Monday, state health overhaul officials said that they had begun work with a new contractor to try to fix Vermont Health Connect, which more than 10 months after it began operation is still not fully functional.

Scott said the problems with the roll-out of Vermont Health Connect since last October have caused many residents to lose faith in their government.

Turner, of Milton, said he was pleased that CGI was being held accountable for its shortcomings but he felt some people in the administration should also be held accountable.

"We think that there needs to be a real scrubbing of what happened before we go forth," Turner said. "We’ve got to understand if it’s management or an (information technology) problem. ... There were some decisions that were made that we think need to be looked at."

Benning also said he was pleased by the CGI decision, but he didn’t know much about the company chosen to replace it, Optum.

"I have no idea how that came about," he said. "I am somewhat concerned that it is not a Vermont company."

Vermont Health Care Reform Chief Lawrence Miller, who sat in on the Republicans’ press briefing, said he was pleased the state is committed to ensuring residents can get the health insurance coverage they need through Vermont Health Connect. He said the concerns raised by the GOP lawmakers were valid.

"We’ve got the same constituents," he said after the GOP meeting. "We’re all worried about how to best serve Vermonters who are in the exchange."

CGI said Monday it was proud to play a role in helping 85 percent of eligible Vermont residents enroll in health plans.


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