Campbell Says Passing Health Bill This Year Is A Priority

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(Host) Senate President John Campbell says it’s critical for the Legislature to pass Governor Peter Shumlin’s health care plan this year.

Campbell says rising health care costs are threatening too many businesses for the bill to be put off.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation puts the state on the path to implement a single payer system as early as 2014. It passed the House late last month and is now being reviewed in the Senate.

The bill creates federal exchanges that will allow consumers to compare the cost of various health care plans. This part of the legislation also allows the state to draw down millions of federal dollars to design new ways to streamline the administrative process of health care.

The bill also creates a new five-member board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in the state.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Senate President John Campbell said the bill needs to be passed before lawmakers adjourn in early May.

(Campbell) "If we don’t address the high cost of health care, the system may end up imploding. And our businesses here in Vermont – who, some of them, are now paying up to 20 percent of their budget is going to health care costs – they can’t wait either. So we’re trying to move this along to the point where we establish a heath care system that will actually have a defined and desired outcome."

(Kinzel) Rutland Senator Kevin Mullin is vice chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee.

He says the board is being given too much power.

(Mullin) "It’s pretty hard for me to explain to constituents anything about what’s happening in health care because basically all the bill does is defer all decisions to a new board."

(Kinzel) But Campbell says it’s essential that a non-political group, like the proposed board, makes the key decisions about the state’s health care system.

(Campbell) "I certainly don’t think it’s a smart idea for somebody who might be subjected to political pressure to be the ones determining what type of benefits someone should get. So therefore I think what’s important is we develop a board that has autonomy, but still has legislative oversight."

(Kinzel) Campbell says he’d also like the bill to allow Vermonters to purchase private insurance coverage to supplement whatever is ultimately offered in the state benefit package:

(Campbell) "If there are other health care benefits that they would like to seek that are not covered in the plans that are in the exchange, that they would be able to go out into the open market to see if that would be available."

(Kinzel) The Senate Health Care committee is expected to vote on the bill in the next few weeks.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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