The County Courier of Enosburg Falls VT is running a candidates’ Q & A forum on relevant issues.
Here is this week’s question and my response:
QUESTION: Healthcare costs have increased drastically faster than the cost of inflation in the past decade. This increase is a significant factor in the increase of Education spending in Vermont, with health care increasing for some districts at least 10% in a budget year, which becomes a double whammy for citizens in the Green Mountain State. If Elected, what would you do to reduce healthcare costs for Vermonters.
Healthcare costs to all Vermonters and Americans across the country have indeed experienced steep increases; no one has been insulated from this. Healthcare costs for educators are no longer much different than in many other industries, and that contract is now negotiated on a statewide level for all teachers, just as other State employees are, so there isn’t the option for local control of that portion of the budget. This helps to spread out spikes in cost over a broader number of individual “insured lives” and taxpayers, but the fact remains that it is prohibitively expensive. I don’t know anyone whose healthcare premiums have not gone up at least 10% in the last year and are forecasted to rise as much again, so this remains a pressing issue nationwide for everyone. Consolidation of healthcare entities and a lack of competition in the insurance market, as well as a rise in pharmaceutical prices due to the extensive, lengthy development that highly specialized therapies involve, all are contributing factors to these increases. I would like to see more innovative, out of the box thinking on methods of insuring populations and delivering healthcare. Although Vermont is at the forefront of this movement, we lack adequate population without the “insured lives” numbers of the Vermont State Employees cohort to significantly move the needle on costs. I am encouraged to see greater utilization of lower-cost healthcare providers such as Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Athletic Trainers, and Dental Assistants, who perform less complex procedures and who triage cases for more costly, specialized providers. Most importantly, I hope that the general population will do more to adopt healthy lifestyles and address medical issues before they become crises; we all can do our part to keep costs down by being proactive with our health rather than having to be reactive in a crisis situation. As a forming member of RISE-VT, I encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about living a healthy lifestyle to connect with this organization at risevt.org
. I would also challenge my legislative colleagues on the Commerce, Education, and Healthcare Committees in both chambers to take a long look at how policies crafted in years past may or may not be working in today’s economically challenged post-COVID world. I look forward to working on these issues in the upcoming session. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.