Vermont never enacted single-payer bill

By Elizabeth R. Rosenthal, M.D.
Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Letters, Jan. 6, 2014

Yevgeniy Feyman’s argument (“Proposed health plan too costly,” Dec. 29) is not valid because his premise – that Vermont’s bill was really a single-payer plan – is false.

Gov. Peter Shumlin wanted to enact a single-payer system in Vermont, but it soon became clear to him that he could not do it without federal support. The comprehensive federal waivers that would be required, as well as lifting Employee Retirement Income Security Act restrictions, would not be forthcoming from Congress. Therefore the label “single payer” was removed from the legislation and the bill was completely rewritten.

So Vermont never enacted a single-payer bill. The bill that was enacted was not much more than a variation on the Affordable Care Act. Although it did have the unique features of attempting to consolidate private insurers, it failed to provide processes to implement the many other beneficial features that would be required to make it a single-payer system.

Such a flawed model would not have been able to decrease costs the way a true single-payer system can. Therefore, one cannot support the notion that the failure of Vermont’s bill proves that a single-payer system is not viable for Vermont nor for New York. We know, from experience in many other countries, that it is not only viable but successful at providing universal care equitably while lowering costs.

Dr. Elizabeth R. Rosenthal resides in Larchmont, N.Y.