House won’t allow alternative health insurance

Michael Bielawski/TNR

PUSHING FOR A MANDATE: Rep. Lori Houghton, D-Essex Junction, argued that health insurance should only come from the state’s exchange and that people who don’t carry insurance should have to pay a fine.

MONTPELIER — On Thursday the House chamber voted in favor of H.524, the health insurance mandate, which in its current form does not have a financial penalty for not having insurance.

The chamber then spent much time going over an amendment which would allow small companies to form Association Healthcare Plans for their employers to compete with the Vermont Health Connect insurance system and its two big providers, MVP and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Vermont’s two main AHPs are set up through the chambers of commerce and through the Business Resource Services.

The chamber ultimately voted against an amendment put forth by Rep. Jim Harrison, R-North Chittenden. Had it passed, it would have allowed the two AHPs with their roughly 5,000 Vermont members to continue for an extra year. During that year, a study mandated by last year’s H.524 would examine if these AHPs have a negative impact on the state’s system.

Opponents argued that the AHPs will draw people out of the state system, ultimately causing premiums to rise.

“Association Health Plans are essentially a vehicle for some small businesses to escape this merged market,” said Rep. Lori Houghton, D-Essex Junction, speaking for the House Health Care Committee. “The House Health Care Committee wrangled with this issue for weeks, taking extensive testimony about the associations and their impacts. What we’ve found is that the associations’ market has driven up costs on the [state] exchange to the tune of about 2 percent on premiums.”

Meanwhile Harrison and other supporters — mostly Republicans — argued that small businesses are struggling as it is to compete in Vermont and the AHPs give them an affordable alternative to the state exchange. Harrison shared some examples of businesses using AHPs.

“A restaurant with six employees on the plan reduced their employee’s deductible by $3,600 per person [per year],” he said. “That’s huge. And a solar panel installer with 20 employees on the plan with the employer paying 100 percent of the premium, they saved over $14,000 this year switching to the association plan under the chamber [Chamber of Commerce]. … The list goes on, Madame Speaker.”

Ultimately the chamber voted against the measure, meaning AHPs will not be allowed to exist in Vermont if the bill passes in current form.

Rep. Kenneth Goslant, R-Northfield, left the House chamber early for a breather. He told True North that as a business owner, he was too upset to remain in the chamber.

“My big fear is that they keep making it harder and harder for small businesses to exist here in Vermont,” he said before heading back in.

Before the vote on the overall bill, Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, explained why he and the majority of the Ways and Means Committee voted the day before to remove the financial penalty from H.524 for not having health insurance. He said one reason his committee couldn’t get behind it is because of timing, getting to their committee too late in the session.

“We got this bill really one day before the money committee crossover date, and to say it plainly there is a complicated tax penalty formula,” he said. “We did not have time to take testimony from all the people who would have wanted to testify. In particular, those of us on the committee got a lot of emails from healthcare sharing ministries.”

These sharing ministries are not unlike the AHPs in that they are smaller groups of people getting together, pooling resources together and essentially acting as their own health insurance without all the big bureaucracy and high costs that come with the state exchange.

The ministries are not counted as adequate insurance according to this bill;  lawmakers determined they do not meet the minimum requirements for services covered. But since there is no financial penalty for not having adequate insurance, members of these ministries can continue to operate in Vermont with no consequence.

The committee also determined that the administrative costs of the penalty were not economical especially in relation to the money it is intended to collect. He said they determined that it could cost anywhere from $.5 to $4.5 million to set up and another $200,000 per year to maintain, compared with about $1.2 million anticipated to be collected per year.

He did say that it will maintain the requirement for those who opt out of health insurance to mark on their tax forms that they don’t have the insurance and that data will be collected in part for outreach efforts so that these people can be reminded about what offers there are regarding services and subsidies from the state exchange.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.


Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “House won’t allow alternative health insurance

  1. Thank you Rachel very well said. I would bet the Democrats want to use Vermont to experience their medicare for all! I am sure we all agree that we do not want to be the guinea pigs for their experiment.

  2. And the pro abortion democrats have the nerve to say that those who oppose abortion are “bringing government into health care.”

  3. Not a single elected official that was “elected by the people for the people” listens to us, the ones that can take their power away. This just shows us they only care about their own personal agenda. They voted for full term abortions but mandate health care. Keep taking out of our pockets and there will be nobody in the state eventually for them to take from.

    • Not too mention, if health care was affordable and did the job it is supposed to, more people might have it. You can’t fine someone for not having health insurance. That becomes an infringement on our rights. I heard a story from a VT friend who has one of VT’s insurance offering and they refused to pay for having a medically neccessary surgery. What?

  4. Another Chittenden County brain, Rep. Lori Houghton, D-Essex Junction. move to Essex Junction in 2002, a real small business owner with no number of employees. Oh yes, in VT if people can’t afford a government forced program, fine them.

    I suspect this also has Baruth’s fingerprints on ithis as well, the English Prof wonder. Wonder if the two of them have tea parties and discuss how to screw (what’s left of residents) Vt’ers. Elitists all.

    Seems like H

  5. These plans don’t pay for the new arrivals from Somalia,Guatemala,and Hondorus.When the average Somali woman gives birth to approximately 8 children over her lifetime,who did you think would pay?
    High deductibles and co-pays keep you out of doctors offices.Not having to pay keeps them coming.In time through sheer breeding we will have states that look like foreign countries within 30 years.
    Glad I’ll be dead

  6. I wonder what the Fascist Taliban has planed when We The People of Vermont tire of their antics,will it be in the light of what many Fascist regimes have done in the past.

  7. Follow the money. What special interest benefits from refusing to let small businesses forge alliances to save money???? Answer thiis question honestly and watch the flys come out of the wood work. Further, how can small business alliances cause the rest of the folks to pay higher premiums??? Jim Harrison offers an excellent approach for helpinng the little guy. What are these idiots thinking??

  8. “The ministries are not counted as adequate insurance according to this bill; lawmakers determined they do not meet the minimum requirements for services covered.”
    I can testify that a health care ministry has BETTER served my family’s needs than the BCBS insurance has. Under my BCBS coverage, the best I could afford 6 years ago, with a $4K deductible – I spent 3 years making payments to UVM Medical for what BCBS did not pay for, for ankle surgery. Under Liberty Healthshare, a Christian health care ministry my family joined 5 years ago, with an affordable monthly premium and a $500.00 deductible, 100% of my husband’s cardiac surgery was covered and a large percentage of PT care.
    I’d call that pretty damn “adequate”. Tell me, how is it the State thinks they know better what I need for health insurance coverage? What the State has deemed adequate coverage is a cookie cutter collection that may exceed what I really need. And with the cost of the State system, I can’t afford to make use of the coverage! The legislators in Montpelier have shown us their cards – they are only concerned they will not be able to force enough people into their system to redistribute what I pay (and can’t afford to use) to some people who will get it for “free”.

  9. Rep. Houghton lets the cat out of the bag – “Association Health Plans are essentially a vehicle for some small businesses to ESCAPE this merged market”. That “merged market” being the Crony capitalist BCBS & MVP system = State controlled & regulated (Green Mountain Care Board, unelected). Note the word “escape” – and understand that means the State intends to CAPTURE you and I in their expensive, socialist system. You and I and small businesses will not have a CHOICE other than the State system, because the fact that we would choose plans more AFFORDABLE for us, will enter unwanted COMPETITION. Rep. Houghton is MORE concerned with preserving the State’s program than enabling Vermonters to make AFFORDABLE choices for themselves. Socialist systems require COERSION, and this is no exception.

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