The following editorial was written by Rep. Vicki Strong who is seeking re-election in Orleans-Caledonia-1. You can learn more about Vicki by visiting her campaign website here.
In June, my husband and I lost our health coverage. Promises have been made by those working to usher in a single payer health plan through Act 48, that we’re on “the path to make every citizen free of healthcare worries, and provide guaranteed healthcare to all Vermonters regardless of employment, income or pre existing condition.”
During the months of required enrollment into the new health care exchange this year, my husband and I struggled to find answers to important questions about the process. Everyone we spoke to had a different response, and even the navigator wasn’t able to access the website. At one point, I was told that perhaps I could use my status as a Legislator to expedite the process, as though my role in public service should provide me with special privileges not available to the
Vermont families I serve. When we did finally enroll, we never received an invoice or confirmation of our new plan and our premiums tripled in price (though we were “generously” offered a “grace” period of three months to pay the new higher premiums). During those three months, we incurred monthly costs, but never once received an invoice, only to be told on the phone at the end of the “grace” period that we owed four months worth of payments or we would lose our health insurance on June 30th. Like so many Vermonters, that was a sticker price we simply couldn’t afford. The next enrollment period is not until January 2015, leaving us with no healthcare coverage and the hope that we won’t have an illness or accident in the next several months.
My family always paid our premiums on time and enjoyed exceptional health insurance under Catamount. Indeed, it made it possible for my husband to undergo three life-saving surgeries and treatments to battle skin cancer, as well as the necessary doctor ‘s visits and medications. What does the administration expect us to do now without insurance? And what do advocates say of the “guaranteed healthcare to all Vermonters regardless of employment, income or preexisting condition”? Where is the “grace” is in this new system? Our family lives within a budget, and prohibitively expensive health insurance changes make it impossible to absorb a tripling of health costs, while still making a mortgage payment and paying for everyday living expenses.
As a Legislator, I sat on the Healthcare Committee the year that Act 48 was voted into law. I was one of three Legislators on the Committee who voted no on the bill multiple times. We heard during the months of work on the legislation, that only seven percent of our Vermont population did not have access to health care coverage, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. Out of the that seven percent, half do not want coverage and prefer to pay out of pocket. Rather than the Legislature looking for solutions to address the needs of the three to four percent without coverage, they chose to derail a system that was working well for the vast majority of Vermonters.
That’s not the kind of reform – or leadership – that Vermonters deserve. We deserve to have problems solved, not created, and we need a more balanced approach in our legislature. Perhaps if the proponents of Act 48 would have taken a broader look at the practical impact of their legislation, families across Vermont – like mine – would continue to have the important health coverage they need and would truly have better access to affordable healthcare.