When Vermont's new health insurance exchange goes live Tuesday morning, its chief opponents plan to flood the state with automated phone calls criticizing it.
Darcie Johnston, the founder of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, says her organization plans to robo-call 30,000 households with a message warning Vermonters that, thanks to Gov. Peter Shumlin, they "could be left uninsured in just three months."
"Why?" the message continues. "Gov. Shumlin got the legislature to require that individuals and small employers must buy health insurance only through an online exchange called Vermont Health Connect — and the exchange may not be ready in time."
The message, which Johnston says will cost $800 to deploy, provides recipients the option to "press 1 now" to be connected with the governor — or at least the poor, beleaguered staffers answering his phones on the fifth floor of the Pavilion State Office Building. A separate message, which will be left on the voicemail systems of those who don't pick up, will helpfully provide the gov's number.
VHCF's message further alleges that Shumlin could immediately "grant a waiver to allow your current insurance plan to renew for another year," which it claims residents of "49 other states" are entitled to do. The Shumlin administration says that's not the case.
In a written response to VHCF's script, Shumlin spokeswoman Sue Allen said the administration has been "working around the clock" to ensure the success of the exchange.
"Efforts by partisan opponents to derail these efforts certainly do not make that process any easier, but they are not surprising given what we have seen around the nation by those determined to stop progress rather than contribute to solutions," Allen continued. "We remain committed to making sure Vermonters have access to quality, affordable health insurance and hope others will join us in that effort.”
So is Johnston's group trying to sabotage Tuesday's roll-out of the exchange?
Nope, she says. "The governor is doing a good enough job on that himself."
Click here to listen to the message callers will hear if they pick up the phone and here for the message that'll be left on their voicemail. And no, it was not recorded by Carl Kasell.