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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Vt. auditor’s report takes aim at runaway health care costs

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Vermont’s auditor says state regulators aren’t doing enough to bring down skyrocketing health care costs.

Vermont has some of the highest health care costs per capita due in part to the state’s aging population, rural geography, and the rising cost of prescription drugs. “The results have not been terribly good for Vermonters,” said Vt. Auditor Doug Hoffer.

In a new report, he takes aim at the Green Mountain Care Board for not doing enough to bring down health care costs. From 2000 to 2018, health care spending increased by 167%, outpacing other expenses like taxes and bills. He says the GMCB needs to take Vermonters’ ability to pay for health care into account.

The GMCB which oversees hospital budgets, insurance rates, and all-payer health care reform efforts, seeks to cap health care spending at 3.5% every year. “When the board was created, the Legislature was so intent on addressing this question that the first two principles that guide the board’s work are about cost and affordability,” Hoffer said.

But bringing down costs is just one of the board’s responsibilities. “It’s a balancing act. It’s trying to keep things affordable but also making sure that Vermonters have quality health care,’ said GMCB Cahir Kevin Mullin. He says controlling costs is always front and center, but that cheaper services could have negative consequences for the quality of care and where people can receive treatment. “We could be the lowest price per capita in the country, like some other states, but then we’d be where those other states are in the ranking of quality on health care. And we’re not, we’re always on the top of the list.”

Mullin also says many of the factors that drive up health care costs, such as prescription drugs, and the overall economy, are out of their hands.

Hoffer says if regulators need more power to address these factors, they should work with the Legislature to craft new laws.

If they don’t, he says the board’s work will be for nothing. “The gap between the cost and Vermonters ability to pay keeps growing,” he said.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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