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Vermont’s Obamacare Exchange Fiasco

The Hits Keep Not Coming

Barack Obama, Howard Dean

The internet barely contains enough pixels to describe everything that has gone wrong with the rollout of Obamacare’s exchanges, but even in a disaster of this scope, the price tag for Vermont’s exchange stands out:

Vermont Health Connect, the state’s $170 million exchange, is “one of the most functional in the country,” according to Gov. Peter Shumlin. That’s conceivably true, since most if not all of the other exchanges are in serious trouble, but the Gartner report concluded that Vermont Health Connect “should be considered in RED status due to significant risks to meeting the Oct. 1 deadline for Go-Live.”

The statutory deadline of Oct. 1 has long since gone by, but Vermont Health Connect remains essentially inoperative. You can review the Obamacare-approved insurance plans offered for 2014, but you can’t buy one. Kyle Midura of WCAX-TV observed on the Oct. 18 “Vermont This Week” program that site visitors “almost inevitably get an error message.”

Vermont has 626,000 residents. A $170 million exchange is $272 for every man, woman and child in the state. And this, for a state that already had fairly long track record of efforts to impose government control and sponsorship of health insurance, from Howard Dean’s push for community-rated health plans and Medicaid expansion in the 1990s (Dean cited Vermont as a model in his progressive-backed 2004 Presidential campaign) to a state rate-setting board established by Shumlin in 2011. This vast federal addition to a cluttered state healthcare landscape comes at a price tag that beggars belief.

And the failure of that website presents serious problems when it interacts with that landscape:

[F]or many tens of thousands of Vermonters there are real-world consequences to not being able to buy health insurance on Vermont Health Connect. Thanks to a unique monopoly feature of Vermont’s Act 171 (2012), Vermonters who are thwarted by an inoperative exchange site cannot choose to continue their present coverage with their present insurer. This monopoly feature, in force in no other state, applies to currently insured individual purchasers and small business groups of up to 50 employees.

The reason for the monopoly is that Governor Shumlin and his single-payer allies are trying everything possible to lure or force people into the exchange before 2017. On that date state-run, taxpayer-financed Green Mountain Care is supposed to replace all health insurance.

This $3 billion-plus single-payer plan will be financed in large measure with a federal block grant equal to the sum of all the Obamacare tax credits paid on behalf of the people buying through Vermont Health Connect.

Now, national politics can’t save Vermonters from their own self-inflicted woes, but even in the most socialist precincts of the Green Mountain State, it has to be apparent that the addition of the federal exchange is just one more colossal boondoggle taxpayers can’t afford.

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