Her foresight is what Washington needed…..
Vermont’s top financial regulator has no regrets about being the nation’s only state insurance commissioner to refuse to license an Obamacare co-operative.
Susan L. Donegan was commissioner for Vermont’s Division of Insurance in 2013 when she refused to issue a license to the proposed Vermont Health CO-OP, saying it failed to meet state standards. Her action barred the Obamacare non-profit from selling health insurance in the state.
She quickly came under fire in Sen. Bernie Sanders deep-blue home state, where co-ops are immensely popular. Today, she looks like a prescient state official who likely saved thousands of Vermonters from buying their health insurance from a doomed insurer.
That’s because 13 of the 24 co-ops set up under Obamacare have collapsed, costing the federal treasury $1.3 billion. More than 800,000 co-op customers now find themselves without health insurance coverage and are scrambling to find new policies due to the co-op failures.
Turns out that some of the biggest problems she identified two years ago in her state also doomed co-ops across the country. In an exclusive interview, Donegan talked with the Daily Caller News Foundation for nearly an hour to recount her decision, its aftermath and the lessons she learned about the federal co-op program.
Denying a license to the health co-op was not an easy decision for Donegan, who first joined Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration as a deputy insurance commissioner in 2010.
First, she already knew when the co-op’s application arrived at her her office that federal officials in Washington, D.C., had pre-approved the co-op’s plan and allocated to it $33 million in taxpayer funds.
Second, she knew the co-ops were an important part of President Obama’s signature health reform effort. Obama is extremely popular in Vermont, having garnered 67 percent of the vote in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
The small New England state also is the land of co-ops. Doug Dimento, a spokesman for Cabot Farmers Co-operative Creamery, which started in 1919, says co-ops in Vermont represent a way of life. His co-operative has 1,200 dairy farmer members and enjoyed $1.1 billion in revenue last year.
“We have maple sugar marketing co-ops,” he told TheDCNF. “There’s dairy co-ops, there’s beef co-ops, there’s grain co-ops, there’s apple co-ops, there’s consumer’s co-ops. There’s well over 100 co-ops.”
Donegan sensed trouble as soon as she read the co-op’s application. There were optimistic and questionable forecasts, a board filled with friends, sweetheart deals, high salaries, deep conflicts of interest and a staff with little business expertise.
She believed the Obamacare co-op model — as presented by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials in Washington, D.C. — was deeply flawed for Vermont.
“The model was not sustainable,” she said. And referring to the 13 co-op’s that have failed: “I think perhaps, my thoughts back then may have borne themselves out in some way.”