The Governor, legislative and health care leaders said today that Vermont is on track to launch Vermont Health Connect, the federally-mandated Health Benefits Exchange, in October as scheduled for all individual and small group consumers. In addition, Gov. Shumlin outlined progress his administration is making in implementing the state's broader health reform plan, and announced upcoming changes at the Green Mountain Care Board.
"We have made tremendous strides in the past two years to develop a health care system in Vermont that will be a model for the nation," the Governor said. "We are on track for Vermonters to start shopping for health insurance at Vermont Health Connect in October, in compliance with the federal reform law. And I don't want to lose track of the progress we have made moving even further toward developing a smarter, higher value single payer healthcare system that offers better care to all Vermonters by 2017."
Mark Larson, Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, noted the hard work going on behind the scenes to ensure the complex Exchange systems are operational and on schedule.
"Through Vermont Health Connect, Vermonters will be able to make side-by-side comparisons of their health coverage options -- including both private and public plans," Larson said. " Vermont Health Connect will be the one place for Vermonters to 1) compare health coverage options, 2) enroll in the plan that's right for them, and 3) secure financial assistance."
Gov. Shumlin also identified several accomplishments in areas that are critical to the success of overall health reform:
Better Access to Care: 423,015 Vermonters are now being served through high-quality "Blueprint for Health" primary care practices, supported by Community Health Teams to prevent and manage chronic disease and improve their health.
Better Use of Technology: 83 percent of Vermont primary care physicians have electronic health records (EHRs), among the highest rates in the country. Most of these providers have connections to health information networks that now allow them to see test results electronically. All Vermont hospitals are now using EHRs.
Better Delivery Models: Vermont has the nation's only statewide Accountable Care Organization, OneCare, a network of 13 hospitals and 2,100 physicians organized to deliver better health care, more efficiently, to 60,000 Vermont Medicare beneficiaries.
Innovative Payment Models: Vermont recently received a federal grant of approximately $45 million to continue its progress developing models that tie payments to health outcomes. Moving from fee for service to outcomes-based payments over the next five years will help encourage improved quality, greater efficiency and better care coordination across physicians, hospitals, clinics, mental health practitioners and long-term services and supports.
Controlling Costs: Gov. Shumlin reiterated that controlling costs is critical to creating a new healthcare system in Vermont. The Green Mountain Care Board has begun addressing currently unsustainable healthcare cost growth, setting a modest growth rate of 3 percent for hospital budgets for next year. The Board also recently denied rate increases for health insurance bought by individuals without employer-sponsored coverage.
Gov. Shumlin's budget proposal increased the reimbursement rate for Medicaid services by 3 percent in order to begin to address the "cost shift" that drives up private insurance premiums for individuals and businesses; the House budget under consideration adopts this recommendation.
The Governor thanked the House for the healthcare provisions in the budget going to the floor this week, which include funds to make coverage purchased through Vermont Health Connect more affordable for 40,000 low and middle income Vermonters, and increase Medicaid provider rates.
Finally, Gov. Shumlin also announced that Green Mountain Care Board Chair Anya Rader Wallack will be stepping down from her current position at the end of September. The Governor and legislative leadership fully support current board member Al Gobeille as the next chair of the board, and will ask the nine-member nominating committee to convene as soon as possible to finalize the new chair and set a schedule and process for selection of a new Board member.
"Anya has been a critical player from day one of my administration in leading Vermont's first-in-the-nation reform effort, and I am grateful that she has given so much of her time and expertise to the state," Gov. Shumlin said. "Al Gobeille has become a true and trusted leader at the Board, and I believe he would provide a smooth transition to the Board if named as chair."