Could the Repeal of Obamacare Affect Vermont's Uninsured Rate?

BURLINGTON, VT - Could the repeal of Obamacare affect Vermont’s uninsured rate?

The Vermont Health Connect opened for business three years ago thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

“Vermont had an incredibly successful open enrollment that first year and that helped move Vermont's uninsured rates to record lows," said Lawrence Miller, chief of health care reform for the Shumlin Administration.

Since the launch, Vermont has essentially cut its uninsured rate in half to about 2.7% percent, or about 17,000 Vermonters, according to Miller.

A number he says could rise given President-elect Donald Trump's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"If you take the president elect at his word, and you take the congressional leaders at their word there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty for the states right now," said Miller.

Each year, the federal government pays more than $500 million in Medicaid benefits for Vermont's health insurance programs, according to Vermont Health Connect spokesperson Sean Sheehan.

But Miller says the disruption would be less on Medicaid and more on subsidies.

"The challenge the legislature and the incoming administration will likely face is what to do if the subsidies are withdrawn," said Miller.

Health Connect officials say a withdrawal would affect about 25,000 Vermonters.

"Those people could no longer afford insurance, become uninsured, that has a secondary impact on hospital budgets, with uncompensated care and the result of hospital budgets going up," said Miller.

Miller says the challenge will largely fall on incoming Governor Phil Scott and his administration.

Scott, a Republican, said he wants to move the state away from Vermont Health Connect. As for what President-elect Trump and Congress will do, Scott says we’ll have to wait and see.

“I’m sure we’ll have something in place,” said Scott, during an interview last week.  

Miller says since Congress is in session longer than the state legislatures, there's bound to be a lot of adjustment.

"It would not surprise me if the legislature would need a special session next year," says Miller.

The state reports since the exchange launched about 26,000 more people have become insured.

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