Proposed cuts to VHAP, Catamount are unacceptable

March 20, 2013

The Commons Online

In the 1970s, I lived and worked in England, and was in the National Health Service. I had good care and never had to worry about whether I’d be able to afford it. I am thrilled that Vermont is moving in the direction of universal health care and wish it could happen sooner than 2017.

Meanwhile, disturbing changes are afoot for participants in Vermont Health Access Program (VHAP) and Catamount Health, which will have to shut down at the end of 2013.

This is driven by the federal Affordable Care Act, which is hardly the government takeover of health care that opponents claim. It is still an insurance-based system, and it will not fully fund insurance for all current VHAP and Catamount participants.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has proposed state funds to make up some of the difference, but at this point, there is still a gap between current costs to the patient and projected costs under the exchange, which starts in 2014.

As a former participant in VHAP and Catamount, I am concerned about this rate increase. Though these programs are bandages on a broken system, I received good coverage under them at a rate I could afford. I was relieved that this relief was available when I needed it.

It is unconscionable that people who currently have coverage stand to lose it. That’s not how universal health care is supposed to work.

These cuts to VHAP and Catamount do not fulfill Act 48’s commitment to creating a health-care system that recognizes the human right to health care.

As we move forward toward a universal health-care system, we should not be taking any steps back by balancing any budget shortfalls on the backs of poor and middle-class people.

Instead, we must look to raise revenue equitably.

Ellen Schwartz, Brattleboro