Vermont Governor Still Looking Towards Single Payer

Efforts to enact the nation’s first single payer healthcare system are continuing in Vermont. The Vermont plan, which began with in 2011, when Governor Peter Shumlin signed Act 48 into law, is a multi-stage project intended, at least initially, to culminate in a publically financed healthcare system in 2017. According to an Associated Press (AP) story, supporters of the law recently gathered at a press conference to rebut critics and raise support while urging the governor and state legislature to continue moving forward despite criticism and a narrow victory by Shumlin in the November elections.

Single Payer System

The Vermont health care system is unique in that it is designed to work in concert with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) to develop a new payment model. The Vermont health care reform plan is explained in some detail on the state’s website. According to the AP, the reform, know as “Green Mountain Care” is intended to shift the way Vermont pays for health care from one based upon premiums to one, in Shumlin’s words, “based upon ability to pay.” The hope is that by moving the processes of administration and payment to the government, health care costs can be tempered by eliminating administrative waste and what some consider unnecessary losses to the private insurance industry. However, not everyone in Vermont is on the same page.

Differing Opinions

While Shumlin is professing intent to stay behind the reform and is hopeful about its future progress, many are far from supporting the revolutionary idea. According to the AP, Darcie Johnston, leader of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom indicated that not all Vermont residents are behind the idea and the fact that supporters needed to hold a press conference demonstrates that support is waning.  Johnston told the AP that “Vermonters are taxed enough” and suggested that a 2 billion dollar tax increase would be inappropriate.  Following the close election that narrowly reelected Shumlin, according to a Vermont Public Radio account, critics offered speculation that maybe the narrow victory would cause Shumlin to shelve his single player plan. However, Shumlin’s recent statements suggest otherwise and despite the clouded atmosphere, it looks like Vermont will continue to break ground with this single payer plan.

Problems and Fixes

The current stage of Vermont plan has not gone off without some stumbles. Earlier in 2014, Vermont shut down its website due to security issues, trouble with information changes, and page loading problems.  Governor Shumlin is remaining optimistic however and indicated that he hopes to deliver an updated financing plan and timeline to state legislators before the Vermont legislative session reopens in January.  According to the AP, Shumlin indicated that the next several weeks will be about determining what is wrong with the way the current system is funded and determining a way to sustain current spending levels.  As Shumlin’s obligation to submit a financing plan comes forward, his eagerness for the novel plan may be put to the test. The question remains: will Vermont make it to 2017 and a novel form of health care?