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House GOP vote won’t derail Vermont’s plans, Welch says

May 5, 2011

NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Staff Writer
BENNINGTON — A GOP-led effort in the U.S. House to strip funding for state health care exchanges included in President Barack Obama’s landmark federal health care reform law will never get far enough along to derail reform efforts in Vermont, said Rep. Peter Welch.

The third-term congressman and nearly all Democrats voted against the measure to strip $14 billion dollars in funding for the health insurance market exchanges. But Republican majority successfully passed the ban on federal money for the exchanges by a 238 to 193 vote on Tuesday.

The move in Congress occurred just days before state lawmakers in Vermont passed its own health care reform law that lays the groundwork for a universal, publicly funded health system. The Green Mountain Care plan, which received final passage Thursday and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, would provide health insurance to all Vermont residents.

It sets up the health care exchange — which the U.S. House voted to de-fund — called for in the federal reform bill. The exchange, to be implemented by 2017, and perhaps as early as 2014, would serve as the basis for the Vermont system.

Welch said Thursday that he is not worried about the House vote because majority Democrats in the Senate will not follow suit. And the president would be sure to veto the measure if they did, he said.

“The good news is it won’t effect Vermont, so Vermont is in good shape to proceed,” Welch said. “The bad news is that it shows the new majority is intent on doing everything it can to destroy health care reform.”

Steve Kimbell, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration, said the U.S. House action could “potentially impair Vermont’s ability to help our citizens get access health coverage.”

“It’s unfortunate that the United States House of Representatives has passed a short-sighted bill that would impair the ability of states to implement federal health care reform and address the unique health needs of their citizens,” Kimbell said. “A robust health insurance exchange is a key component of Federal reform and is an element of Vermont’s health care reform legislation that will be enacted this week. The House bill risks reducing enrollment in the exchange and access to premium credits and cost sharing reductions that help make insurance affordable.”

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com

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