Browning files records request

MONTPELIER - Representative Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington, Manchester) wants answers. Browning has filed a public records request for reports, memos and other work products about the financing of Green Mountain Care, or as it is more commonly known, "single payer."

Green Mountain Care, the first single payer health care system on the state level in the United States was enacted in 2011. The intent is to provide Vermonters with universal health care when it goes into effect in 2017.

"Act 48, passed in 2011, required the Governor to provide a finance plan for Green Mountain Care by January of 2013," Browning said.

Green Mountain Care, still does not have a financing plan. Due to changes surrounding healthcare, the Governor and his administration have not yet produced a financing plan.

Browning said she believes the law should have been changed, instead of the Governor not releasing the information. Currently, the governor is expected to show the legislature some financing options in this spring session.

Green Mountain Care is expected to cost $2 billion in tax payer money. Browning said what Vermonters will pay in taxes will substitute what they were paying in insurance premiums. However, the Shumlin administration still has not released a plan, which is why Browning submitted her request on March 13, 2014.

"One way to frame what I am seeking is your analyses, draft reports or memos concerning alternative answers to the question 'How will we pay for GMC?" she wrote in her records request.

On March 19, 2014, Browning received six power point presentations from Michael Costa, Deputy Director of Health Care Reform, with the statement that the power points were "responsive to my request." Other materials relating to the financing of Green Mountain Care fall under executive privilege, Costa wrote in his response.

"The withheld records are my ongoing policy development papers, including drat research, modeling, reference materials and material used to provide periodic updates to the Governor and his advisors," he wrote.

Browning plans to appeal this denial with Jeb Spaulding, the Governor's Secretary of Administration and will appeal the Superior Court if the documents are still withheld.

"Executive privilege is not supposed to protect government officials, its to protect the public," Browning said. "It's not supposed to protect the Governor from politically inconvenient facts."

Robin Lunge, the Director of Health Care Reform, said that executive privilege is used to keep policy advice the Governor receives out of public record, because this is part of the vetting process of ideas and allows a discussion free of political implications. These documents are therefore protected under public records law and did not have to be released to Browning, Lunge said.

Browning said she believes the financing plan will be held until after the election to help protect the Governor politically. Vermonters have been promised more affordable healthcare, but the reality is that some will pay less, but many will be paying more, she said.

"This is driven by my despite to have a good, financially sustainable health insurance for Vermonters," she said.

Michael Costa and Cynthia Browning will be part of a panel that will discuss Vermont taxes at the Park House on March 31, starting at 6:30 p.m.


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