Vt. Gov. Shumlin Pushes For Single-Payer Health Care

By Anthony Brooks
WBUR Boston Radio, March 10, 2011

As many states, and Republicans in Congress, are looking for ways to roll back President Obama’s signature health care law, Vermont is moving in a different direction.

Most lawmakers there have concerns about the federal overhaul — but not because they oppose reform. Their concern is that the law doesn’t go far enough, and that the cost of health care is crippling the country’s economy.

“It’s killing business, it’s killing job creation and it’s killing working families,” Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin told Radio Boston’s Anthony Brooks Thursday.

Vermont is moving full-steam ahead with a plan to become the first state in the nation to adopt a European-style single-payer health care plan. Shumlin, a Democrat, campaigned on the issue.

“We want to do three things,” Shumlin said. “The first is to treat health care as a right and not a privilege. The second is to create the first system in the country where health insurance follows the individual and is not a requirement of the employer, which we think is a huge jobs creator. And the third is to contain costs by moving to a system that spends money more wisely.”

Many see the single-payer system as a cost-saving solution, but Shumlin himself admits savings are not something achieved easily.

“No one in health care reform has figured out how to contain costs and our goal in Vermont is to contain costs,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin’s plan is dependent upon changing how health care is paid for.

“We want to be the first state that actually moves from a fee-for-service system to a payment based upon health care outcomes,” Shumlin said. “In other words: reward our providers for keeping people healthy, not the current system where we reward them for the number of procedures that they might do.”

A majority of state lawmakers supports Shumlin’s plan, and this week a key health care committee will vote on a bill that will start moving the state toward single-payer health care. Still, the overhaul of Vermont’s health care system faces hurdles. The state will need a change in Obama’s federal bill to allow Vermont to begin its single-payer push in 2014.

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