Federal scrutiny over Vermont's health care plan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Federal scrutiny over Vermont's health care plan

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Could the new Vermont Health Exchange be breaking the law? Some lawmakers in Washington think so.

This isn't the first time the GOP has had something to say about mandated health care, but is the first time it has singled out Vermont.

In a letter to Mark Larson, Vermont Health Access Commissioner, the House Oversight Committee questions the validity of the Vermont Health Exchange-- a new program that will require businesses with 50 or fewer employees to participate in a state-run health insurance marketplace.

"We really view this as a straight forward issue that is well settled at this point," said Mark Larson, Vermont Health Access Commissioner.

Though Larson is not concerned, those who opposed Vermont's new health care mandate consider this a win.

"We thought, 'Yay! About time,'" explained Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom. "We've been working tirelessly to bring attention to this issue of mandated exchange."

The letter questions the validity of requiring small businesses to choose within the exchange and not allowing them to look elsewhere for insurance, calling it, "Inconsistent with principals of consumer choice and competition." But Larson disagrees.

"We've conducted a legal analysis. We really are very confident that we are acting in accordance with the affordable care act and are consistent with the state's right to regulate the insurance market," Larson said.

But Johnston wants the state Legislature to take immediate action.

"We think it's very important for individuals and small businesses to come together and demand to the Legislature that they reconvene for the purpose of fixing the Vermont health exchange system," she said.

This is not the first time the House Oversight Committee has questioned health care mandates. In fact, the GOP has tried 37 different times to repeal Obamacare. Larson says despite the letter, he believes the exchange meets all federal requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

"The federal government has certified us as a state-based exchange. [The federal government] has provided us funding to implement a state-based exchange," he explained.

But Johnston says she'll continue supporting small businesses that feel the Vermont Health Exchange is not right for them.

"Businesses are really questioning what this government, Peter Shumlin, has put forth. I get calls every day from small businesses saying how is this right? How is this not a violation of my rights?" she said.

Commissioner Larson says he will respond to the letter, but his main focus is on October 1-- that's when the Health Exchange will begin. For those wondering what their new rates will be, he says those numbers are due out early next week.

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