Leaders also Encourage Administration to Switch to Functional Health Care Exchange
MONTPELIER – Lt. Governor Phil Scott and the newly expanded team of Vermont Republican legislators today encouraged the Democrat majority, Independents and Progressives to reach across the aisle and join the effort to craft and pass pro-growth economic policies which reduce the cost of living, encourage job creation and help lift wages for working Vermonters.
Working Together to Solve Problems and Make Progress
Lt. Gov. Scott said Republicans are prepared to work together with Independents, Democrats and Progressives to grow Vermont’s economy and make the State a more affordable place to live.
“Vermonters expect us to evaluate legislation based on its financial impact on working families and its impact on the economy,” Scott said. “If a proposal piles more costs onto already overburdened Vermonters, makes life less affordable or is a potential barrier to job creation, we should not implement it. If it lowers costs for families and helps create jobs we should work hard to make it happen. It’s really that simple.”
Scott also noted that debate is good for the policy-making process, something that many on both sides of the aisle believe has been lacking in previous years. Scott emphasized that respecting differing points of view is critical to a healthy debate.
“On Election Day this year, Vermonters reminded us that they expect every elected official to put good governance and serving people ahead of party politics and special interests,” Scott continued. “This means solving problems, making state government more productive and efficient and, when we make new laws, listening to every point of view and reconciling differences of opinion in a respectful way that results in a good policy. With this approach, we can grow confidence in government and make changes that make Vermont more affordable and strengthen the economy.”
Building a Bipartisan Agenda
Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning said Republicans are ready sit down with their Democrat colleagues to build a bipartisan legislative agenda.
“We know where we need to focus – property tax reform, the cost of living, health care reform and wage growth and job creation – and we each have our own ideas of what needs to be done in these areas,” Benning said. “But we’d like to sit down with our colleagues and put all of our ideas on the table, determine where the areas of agreement are and commit to work together in order to pass legislation in each of those areas before Town Meeting Day.”
Benning said focusing the discussion on areas where there is agreement, rather than areas where there is disagreement, is the best way to make meaningful progress and get results for Vermonters.
Solve an Immediate Challenge: The Health Care Exchange
House Minority Leader Don Turner said there is an urgent matter that needs immediate attention by both the executive and legislative branches of state government and action cannot wait until January.
Turner called on the Shumlin Administration to shut down its failed Vermont Health Connect website, transition Vermont to the fully functional federal health care exchange and restore Catamount Health to ensure preservation of subsidies for low-income Vermonters.
“The next enrollment period is just days away and there has been no improvement to the system and the chaos and mismanagement continues,” Turner said. “We believe Vermonters who have been forced into this failed system – many against their will – by the Shumlin Administration and the previous legislature have a right to the benefits, lower costs and basic customer service they have been promised by the federal Affordable Care Act.”
Turner said the Administration should begin this work right away. He added that his caucus is prepared to work with Democrats to amend Act 48, the law forcing thousands of Vermonters into the Vermont Health Connect system, in order to allow Vermont to transition to the fully functional federal health insurance exchange.
“There will be bipartisan support for this bill and we believe it should be taken up the first week in January and sent to the Governor and signed into law before his budget address,” Turner said.
Vermont’s health care exchange has cost more than $100 million, is still not fully functional and offers only a small number of options. Thousands of Vermonters remain in change of circumstance situations where they are incorrectly billed, dependents are not covered and doctors are not being paid. This is unacceptable. Alternatively, other states have implemented the federal exchange for as little as $8 million and offer more coverage options at more affordable prices.
“Moving forward, we hope the Administration will reconsider its approach to health care reform and work with us to reduce health care costs for every Vermonter, achieve universal access and increase quality in ways which work for Vermonters practically and financially. We must also respect the role of our health care system in creating good jobs and generating economic activity in our communities,” Turner said.