Health Insurance Once Viable Here

Published March 19, 2004

In an article in an upcoming issue of Health Care News, editor Conrad F. Meier blames Howard Dean’s passage of community rating and guaranteed renewal legislation in 1992 for “wreaking havoc on group and individual insurance markets, just as they have across the country.”

According to Meier the uninsured rate has gone from 9.5 percent (1992) to 9.7 percent (over 1999-2001). In 1994 Vermont ranked second among the states. The 2001 ranking for health insurance coverage placed Vermont 10th in the nation.

More Vermonters than ever are having to settle for government-run Medicaid in order to get insurance. Vermont is now second in the nation, after Tennessee, in the proportion of its under 65 population covered by Medicaid (21 percent). That is almost a quarter of the citizens who live and work here.

What was formerly a healthy and affordable individual and small group insurance market boasting 33 competitive insurance companies is now a shell of its former self, leaving only one major health insurance company in a market known to be a hostile environment in which to do business.

Gov. Douglas has recognized the health crisis facing the people of Vermont, and small, corrective steps in the right direction are being made.

The employees of my company have dental coverage that is offered by a corporate structure. Only one dentist in the entire state will accept the coverage that is offered and the dentist is in Bellows Falls. They also have prescription coverage, but have to drive to Lebanon to get a prescription filled. Anything over the usual and customary coverage comes out of the employee’s pockets and most often those are hefty balances.

Please watch your senators and representatives closely so Vermont can reverse this trend and make affordable insurance available to those who work.

For our neighbors in New Hampshire, make sure the same thing does not happen there. The insurance lobbyists are some of the strongest in the nation.

Betsy Ward