Governor Shumlin Finally Acts as Election Approaches

Montpelier, VT – Nearly a year after its bungled rollout subjected thousands of Vermonters to a state mandated health insurance marketplace that was more expensive, nearly impossible to navigate and never fully functional, Governor Shumlin today announced that Vermont Health Connect will be shut down for repairs until after the November elections.

Governor Shumlin was careful with his words and said the website would be “well-functioning” after the shutdown, not “fully functioning.” Even after two more months of constant work, and millions of more taxpayer dollars spent, he cannot guarantee Vermonters will have a fully functional health care website. In the meantime, Vermonters will need to interact with the health care exchange through telephone calls and paper and pen.

We want to be crystal clear: This is the type of lack of leadership and accountability — and the more costly, more inefficient, more impersonal bureaucratic nightmare — Vermonters can expect if Governor Shumlin succeeds in giving state government complete control of your health care. Costs will go up, coverage and quality will go down, and you will have fewer choices.

Just last month, Vermont’s new health exchange technology provider — Optum — released a scathing review of the status of Vermont Health Connect. Its 166 page report laid the blame for the bungled website clearly on the doorstep of the Shumlin administration. The report repeatedly pointed to a lack of ownership, lack of leadership and lack of appropriate administrative measures by the Shumlin administration dating back to the initial stages of the project.

One would be right to question why Governor Shumlin for months — amid repeated cries for action — continued to express confidence in his leaders and his initial technology supplier — CGI Technologies — and refused to take any significant action to address the growing problems.

Now — less than 50 days from an election — Governor Shumlin has decided to take drastic action to mend at least some of the issues plaguing this website. And only days after a new political poll showed his support in Vermont has slipped 17 points in the last two months and he now has the unenthusiastic support of just 45% of Vermonters — suddenly he takes desperate action to intervene.

This is not principled leadership, this is political expediency at its worst. Vermonters deserve more than this from their Governor. It’s time for a change.