Published on Friday, March 25, 2011 by the Brattleboro Reformer (Vt.)
Vt. House Passes Single-Payer Health Care Bill
by Chris Garofolo
MONTPELIER -- The Vermont House of Representatives passed a bill calling for a single-payer system Thursday afternoon, putting the state on a path to become the first in the nation to adopt universal access to health care.
Lawmakers voted 92 to 49 after nearly two days of debate, including discussion on the floor until the early morning hours on Thursday.
Advocates hail the measure as the solution to control costs by reducing administrative overhead. However, critics said it leaves too much financial uncertainty and could hurt the economic growth in Vermont.
The legislation proposes to develop a unified health system where all Vermonters are eligible for benefits under a universal coverage program called Green Mountain Care. Democratic leaders are optimistic the single-payer plan will contain the skyrocketing costs of health care and put the state on a more sustainable fiscal path.
"I think that we all know, and there was universal agreement on the House floor, that the current system will bankrupt us. Costs of health care in Vermont are going up $1 million a day. They are $2 billion more than they were 10 years ago. We have a problem, we need to solve it," said House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville. "This is just the first step in the process. This will be a long road ahead, and we have much work left to do. But we have taken a bold step forward today."
The measure also designs a four-year timeframe to establish a publicly funded system, beginning with the creation of the Green Mountain Care Board on July 1 with a budget of $1.2 million. The five-member board will design a more sensible payment plan for health care providers, control the overall cost to align it closer to Vermonters’ ability to pay and recommend a benefit package for every resident.
States are free to do whatever they want, and Vermont is a very leftist state. It will be interesting to see the effects it has on health care and availability there.