Gov. Shumlin's administration presents alternative payroll tax plans

March 10, 2015
Vermont's Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller presented a revamped version of Shumlin's payroll tax plan March 10. He says this latest iteration is designed to address concerns raised not only by lawmakers, but by members of the business community. Many employers were unhappy that they'd still be paying the employer assessment formerly used to fund Catamount Health, which is paid by employers that don't offer health benefits to their workers. It amounts to about $500 per employee per year, and raises about $17 million annually. One of the proposals Miller floated would do away with the employer assessment, and cut Shumlin's original payroll tax proposal in half, from .7% to .35%. Miller says that package would net enough revenue to pay for the governor's plan to boost Medicaid reimbursement rates. Shumlin says increasing the rates would benefit businesses by relieving upward pressure on private health insurance premiums. The House Committee on Health Care has come up with its own set of reform initiatives. While they're similar to the governor's, they differ in some areas. The House, for instance, would spend less than Shumlin on boosting Medicaid rates, and more than the governor on assistance to lower-income Vermonters now buying insurance through Vermont Health Connect. The plan to do away with the employer assessment and initiate a .35% payroll tax wouldn't fund all of the items on the House's wish list, but it might serve to move them away from a tax on sugar sweetened beverages, which Shumlin opposes.