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Governor candidates on Vermont's future in health care - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Governor candidates on Vermont's future in health care

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The fate of Vermont Health Connect may hinge on who voters select to be the next governor.

Many of the bugs have been worked out or worked around on Vermont's online health insurance marketplace, but problems persist three years after its initial launch.

Republican Phil Scott and Democrat Sue Minter, both candidates for governor, say the status quo is unacceptable.

"I think it was just failed from the beginning," said Scott.

"This system has truly failed many Vermonters," said Minter. 

Minter says it made sense for Vermont to pursue its own, unique marketplace, and to use the portal to determine eligibility for state subsidies and Medicaid, not an option under the federal exchange.

She says better oversight will make a difference.

"I hope it can become functional," Minter said. "I will put fresh eyes on that, but also a fresh management team."

Minter did not answer when asked whether a fresh team meant forcing out members of Governor Shumlin's squad.

Scott says he plans on replacing Health Connect itself.

"Admitting failure isn't easy, but that's part of leadership, and I think that at this point in time, we should admit this isn't working. This isn't good for Vermont," said Scott. 

Scott says he's convinced Vermont should join the federal exchange or team up with another state in the region, like Connecticut.

He says that would save the state tens of millions in maintenance costs every year versus up keeping its current one-of-a-kind system.

"I'm very concerned about the maintenance costs, the high maintenance costs in the future, regardless of whether we can prop it up and get it working," said Scott.

Scott says if Vermont joined a different insurance marketplace, the state could find a different avenue to distribute its subsidies to individuals and continue operating the portion of the state exchange used for Medicaid eligibility determinations.

Minter says she's wary of a transition worrying it may lead thousands to lose coverage.

The pair are both anticipating the release of an independent report on paths forward due in December, but both say they expect results backing up their respective viewpoints.   

Minter and Scott say they support reforms to pay care providers based on quality and keeping patients healthy rather than for tests and procedures.

Scott though says a pending agreement to do so with Medicare has been rushed, while Minter says the years of discussion leave her cautiously optimistic for its potential.

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