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Champlain Housing Trust’s CEO, Brenda Torpy, responds to single-payer health care proposal

My Turn: Health reform important for nonprofit sector employers, too

Source: Burlington Free Press, April 3, 2011, by Brenda Torpy

“For the Champlain Housing Trust, the discussion about the future of Vermont’s health care financing sys­tem is welcomed — and long overdue. Just like busi­nesses across the state, the cost of health insurance has long been a big challenge for annual budgeting and a highly inflationary operat­ing cost.

Providing all Vermonters with preventative care and access to health care when they get sick is simply the right thing to do. We work with people on a daily basis who are unable to meet their basic needs because of crippling health bills. The inability to pay for household expenses resulting from a major illness or accident is often at the root of poor credit scores or mortgage delinquency leading to the threat of foreclosure. Our housing counselors see this time and time again.

We understand all too well the direct impact on people’s lives when they are uninsured or under-insured.

The lack of predictability and stability in health costs is also a threat to our ability to carry out our mission. As an employer just like any other (whether for-profit or nonprofit) we struggle with this year to year.

In order to deliver on our mission sustainably we need to operate within the constraints of our budget, meet payroll, pay taxes, occupancy costs and other necessary expenses. The Champlain Housing Trust employs 68 staff and will spend 47 percent more on health insurance than we did just two years ago. These costs swallow roughly 7 percent of our annual budget.

To be sure, our actual costs have increased due to a combination of factors such as family formation and new subscribers, but they are largely due to premium increases. Our premiums per subscriber increased by 9 percent between 2009 and 2010, and then jumped another 19 percent this year. Early estimations indicate we are looking at a 22 percent increase this year if our health insurance pricing follows suit with what our peers are paying as they renew their plans…”

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