Vt. lawmakers push for deadline on single-payer financing plan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers push for deadline on single-payer financing plan

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Wednesday afternoon, members of the Vermont House voted to force the governor to provide more information on the state's health reforms. The bill, which already passed the Senate, would require the administration to provide health exchange updates even once legislators leave the Statehouse later this year. It also mandates a single-payer financing plan be in the hands of legislators by early February of next year.

"We will welcome the opportunity to be ready with a financing plan when the next biennium has to consider the question, which is next January," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Reporter Kyle Midura: But you'll fight any release before then?

Gov. Pete Shumlin: It's not that I'm fighting a release; it's that we don't have anything to release.

February isn't soon enough for Rep. Cynthia Browning. Earlier this year she filed a public records request for work documents regarding the transition to single-payer. The governor refused to comply and his office also rejected her appeal. Wednesday, she filed a civil suit against the state of Vermont.

"It's very important to hold government officials accountable for their actions. I don't think the governor should be able to choose which laws he obeys and I don't think the Legislature should be aiding and abetting him in doing that," said Browning, D-Arlington.

She argues the documents should be public because the plan was originally due in January of last year. Gov. Shumlin declined to comment, saying he has not seen the suit.

Meanwhile, those who helped Vermonters navigate the troubled online health exchange rollout shared their stories and lobbied for the funds necessary to continue their work.

"As much as we celebrate the successes of Vermont Health Connect, we acknowledge that there are some systemic issues that need to be remedied," said Donna Sutton Fay, a navigator.

And navigators say even once the website is functioning perfectly their human touch will still be needed to make sure consumers get the info they need.

The original draft of the bill House members voted on Wednesday afternoon introduced a financing plan which relied heavily on a payroll tax to raise $1.6 billion. However that element of the bill never made it out of committee, and Wednesday Governor Shumlin denied being committed to such a tax to fund single-payer.

Also at the Statehouse Wednesday, lawmakers were looking at school consolidation. Tuesday, the administration dropped off a series of proposals for senators to consider. Those in the Senate Education Committee went through multiple drafts Wednesday. They're likely to move forward by opening up cost sharing opportunities. They'll offer incentives to consolidate districts, but not a mandate or penalties.

They've also reintroduced language to temporarily bar any school from transitioning from public to independent while opening up availability for nonpublic, high school students to take advantage of dual enrollment at a state college.

And the hand-held cellphone ban bill is stuck in a Senate committee, but the House is expected to put similar language into a miscellaneous driving measure.

Drugged driving provisions are also moving again in the Senate after they had appeared to stall.

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