Governor Douglas Opposes Health Care Reform Plan

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(Host) Democratic leaders at the Statehouse say they’re disappointed at the intensity of Governor Jim Douglas’s opposition to a preliminary health care reform plan being developed in the House. The governor says he’s sounding alarms about the proposal because he believes it will cause more harm than good to the state’s health care system.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Democrats say they’re surprised by the governor’s strong opposition to a new draft proposal because several weeks ago Douglas stood before reporters at his weekly press conference and urged the Democrats to quickly develop a plan.

They also say they’re disappointed by the governor’s stinging analysis because Douglas has repeatedly said that he’s willing to work with the Democrats to develop a consensus approach to health care reform.

The draft House plan calls for universal coverage for all Vermonters. It creates a new state board to set a budget limit for future health care spending. And it calls for a publicly based financing system – most likely a payroll tax that would replace private health insurance premiums.

Welch says the state faces a health care crisis. He notes that costs are rising by more than 350 million dollars a year. And he finds the governor’s strong rejection of the House draft to be an obstacle to solving this crisis.

(Welch) “The governor and administration response was really the boiler plate political rhetoric and we need more than that from the legislators and also from the administration. And I was surprised that he did that because we’ve got to engage in a new way of thinking about health care that allows us to make the kinds of reforms that are going to bring the costs down so that it’s affordable.”

(Kinzel) Speaking to reporters, Douglas defended his strong opposition to the approach taken by the House health care committee.

(Douglas) “I really believe that what we saw last week is so fundamentally wrong – it moves in exactly the wrong direction – that there’s little I can say positive.”

(Kinzel) It’s likely that the House Health Care committee will support legislation this year that establishes a new public oversight commission that would eventually set a total budget for all health care spending in Vermont. Douglas says he opposes this approach because he doesn’t feel that creating another state bureaucracy will do very much to reduce healthcare costs in Vermont.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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