Last month, the Republican Governor of Vermont Phil Scott signed a bill that includes a penalty for residents who don’t have health insurance.
The measure is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020, but some of the details of the mandate still need to be ironed out like how officials will be enforcing the rule and if there will be a fee for those without insurance.
“We are committed to maintaining Vermont’s low uninsured rate,” said Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s communications director.
The mandate was put in place in response to the federal government eliminating the penalty for those who aren’t enrolled in a health care insurance program.
“The stability of our insurance market really demanded this,” said Republican State Rep. Anne Donahue, vice chair of the House Committee on Health Care.
“In an attempt to head off such issues, the state House earlier this year approved a version of H.696 that enacted a state individual mandate in 2019 even though officials hadn’t yet figured out how to enforce the law. The Senate balked, arguing that an insurance requirement shouldn’t take effect without a penalty in place for those who don’t comply,” writes VTDigger. “A compromise version passed both bodies on the last day of the regular 2018 legislative session. That bill pushed the state’s individual mandate to Jan. 1, 2020, giving officials time to figure out administration, exemption and enforcement issues with the help of a working group that’s scheduled to report to the Legislature by Nov. 1.”
Donahue argues that healthy residents need to remain enrolled to keep the state’s health care costs down. Only 3.7 percent of Vermont’s population currently don’t have health insurance.
“It’s not like there are a lot of people who are thrilled about (enacting) a mandate, necessarily,” said Donahue. “But I think what most people understand is, when you talk about the requirement under the (federal Affordable Care Act) to cover pre-existing conditions, you can’t have one without the other.”
But Vermont lawmakers are disagreeing about on the kind of consequence to impose on residents.
Democrats want a financial penalty like Obamacare had, while Kelley said the Governor wants to implement more of an incentive to keep residents from pulling out of a health care program.
“We wouldn’t be advocating for a penalty. It might be something like an incentive,” said Kelley, who argues that “a penalty may not be the right approach for families that can’t afford to buy insurance.”
“The real solution isn’t going to be related to mandates or penalties,” said Kelley. “It’s more about giving people choices so they can afford care.”
Author’s note: Depending on the penalty, this could have the same challenges that Obamacare had. Being forced to get a certain type of healthcare and to pay fees only proved to be ineffective.