Vermont Gov. James Douglas has vetoed a bill, H. 524, that could have created a new health coverage program for uninsured Vermont residents.[@@]
Rep. Harry Chen, D-Mendon, Vt., the author of H. 524, has been hoping to use the Green Mountain Health program proposed in the bill as the foundation for a program that would offer health coverage to all Vermont residents by 2009, according to the bill text.
One major section of the bill would have funded a Green Mountain Health trust fund by requiring employers to pay a 1% “health effort tax” on the first $50,000 of each uninsured worker’s annual wages. An employer of an uninsured worker who earned more than $50,000 in wages would have to pay a 3% health effort tax on wages in excess of $50,000, according to the bill text.
Uninsured individuals would have to pay an individual health effort tax equal to 1% of their federal adjusted gross annual incomes.
The trust fund would use the tax revenue to provide basic health coverage for residents without other forms of health coverage.
Chen says H. 524 would encourage employers to offer health coverage by requiring uninsured workers and their employers to pay their fair share for workers’ care, instead of dumping responsibility for uninsured workers’ medical bills on state taxpayers and employers that do pay for health coverage.
H. 524 also includes a variety of other proposals. One section, for example, would keep plaintiffs from using apologies from physicians as evidence of negligence in malpractice suits.
Another section would let state-regulated health insurers offer discounts on premiums for employers that adopt serious wellness programs.
Members of the Vermont House approved the bill 79-55, and members of the Vermont Senate approved it 18-7.