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New Vermont Law Moves State Toward Individual Mandate


Vermont Governor Phil Scott recently signed a bill that moves the state toward establishing an individual mandate that would require all residents have health insurance.
Signed without fanfare by the Republican governor, the law outlines preliminary steps for the state to require minimum essential health care coverage.  The measure sets up an Individual Mandate Working Group to develop recommendations and report back to the legislature and administration.

House Health Care Committee Chair Anne Donahue notes that while the individual mandate under the federal Affordable Care Act was not repealed, financial penalties did end.  This bill, she says, gives the legislature time to craft state level proposals.  “It’s a complicated thing to make sure that you’re  you’ve got the right penalties and you’re not being unfair and that you’re getting everyone to participate. And we didn’t think we could do that in just a month or two’s time. So the work group is going to come back to us in January and we’ll be prepared to move on legislation as far as how it will actually take effect. What kind of exemptions will there be. If it’s unaffordable for example and what would the penalties actually be.”

Green Mountain Care Board chair Kevin Mullin says implementation of a statewide individual mandate would spread the insurance risk among as many people as possible and keep health insurance more affordable.   “There is still a federal mandate. It’s just the penalty that’s gone now. So the question is what is that impact on Vermont? And so in the meantime this group will be working on trying to look at what the different alternatives are. They’ll have to determine if it makes sense to have a financial penalty or a different type of penalty. And then they also have been charged with figuring out some exemptions for affordability.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont spokesperson Sara Teachout notes a study commissioned by the Green Mountain Care Board determined there would be between a 1.6 to 2.4 percent increase in premiums due to the federal repeal of the penalty. She says the state wants to make sure a state-implemented mandate enforcement mechanism makes sense and is not punitive to lower-income households.   “There have been a number of challenging changes at the federal level that impact the Affordable Care Act and our state of Vermont exchange. And we worked very hard with all the stakeholders and the legislature to attempt to mitigate those impacts to provide stability in our marketplace.”

Vermont’s individual mandate is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2020.