Opinion: Shumlin’s health care actions have been unpredictable

Gov. Shumlin’s Oct. 31 announcement that he would delay the participation requirement for Vermont Health Connect by three months was a step in the right direction for households, like mine, that are being forced to participate in the exchange in 2014. Båut it also demonstrated that he suffers from a significant lack of understanding of the very thing he is in the act of changing.
For most Vermont families, the primary purpose of a health “plan” isn’t to shift the cost of medical expenses, but rather to provide protection from unmanageable expenses that could result from unforeseen medical needs. My household is a prime example of this: For each of the last 15 years, we would have been better off to pay out-of-pocket for our medical expenses, and to save the money spent on health insurance. Not just a little better off — several tens of thousands of dollars overall. This in spite of significant use of medical services — childbirths, surgeries, ambulances, major tests, broken bones, a full slate of preventative care — and the list goes on. Yet we continue to be grateful for our health insurance, because hindsight is 20/20, and we know that tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now we could be faced with unexpected medical expenses that would bankrupt our household if we didn’t have coverage.
Our health insurance provides predictability, the most valuable aspect of the plan. The governor’s actions with healthcare, on the other hand, have repeatedly flown against predictability, first as he insisted that all was well when it was not, and now with a three-month punt that has created an untenable situation for us and for thousands of other Vermont households. We can’t purchase from the malfunctioning exchange and yet the renewal of our existing plan through March makes no financial sense with annual deductibles, out-of-pocket caps, and IRS implications that don’t translate to a three-month extension. 
The governor’s quest for single-payer healthcare in Vermont is an admirable dream, but social and economic realities make it an impossible one. While he gazes at the single-payer windmill on the 2017 horizon, he’s forgotten that Vermont households need to see clearly what to expect in 2014. It’s mid-November, and the view couldn’t be murkier.
Bryan Young

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