23 December 2013
Dear Governor Shumlin:
We write today with three very important requests for you.
Many Vermonters have expressed concern about the news this week that significant overtime has been mandated and temporary workers hired to process paper health insurance applications made necessary by the failures in the online health insurance exchange. Reports indicate
that up to 56-hour weeks have been required for approximately 130 state workers. Further, the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) has expressed concerns about the work requirement and their lack of training for it.
It has been reported that this overtime requirement is within the prerogative of your administration in the event of an “emergency situation.” Vermonters would like to know if you have officially classified the failures in the online health insurance marketplace as an emergency, and if so, what other possible remedies are made available to your administration to resolve this unfortunate situation. Governor Shumlin, do you consider the failures in the electronic health insurance exchange, and the two documented privacy breaches therein, to constitute an emergency?
Further, in order to best inform Vermonters about the impact of this overtime mandate, we request that a full accounting be provided for all overtime hours worked, number of temporary workers hired, and the total cost impact to state and federal taxpayers as a result of processing paper applications for health insurance. We are told that this information is readily available within your office, the Department of Health Access and the Agency of Administration. If it’s not, we’d be even more alarmed that such a decision was made without regard to its fiscal impacts.
Finally and most importantly, Vermonters deserve to be assured by you that everyone who has submitted an application, both through the faulty online exchange and the backup paperwork system, will have health insurance coverage and plan information by January 1, 2014. The health care of Vermonters—access to prescription drugs and medical services at a price they can afford—is too important to leave to chance.
Governor, can you personally guarantee Vermonters that everyone who has applied for health care coverage through Vermont Health Connect – electronically or by paper application – will have both coverage and plan information by January 1, 2014?
While we remain concerned that your plan for another radical restructuring of our health insurance system in 2017 will drive up costs and drive down the level of access and quality of care for Vermonters, we are most immediately concerned that those mandated into the exchange be guaranteed, seamless and fully continuous coverage throughout its tumultuous roll-out.
Vermonters deserve full transparency from their elected officials and it is especially important in cases where state government has so clearly mismanaged implementation of a major policy change impacting thousands of our families.
We look forward to your response.
David A. Sunderland
Chair, Vermont Republican Party