Group rallies for efficient health care

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(Host) Hundreds of Vermonters are expected to converge on the Statehouse Saturday to voice support for a universal health system. The crowd will include physicians and other health care professionals who are part of a new effort they say will show lawmakers that voters support publicly-funded health care.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) Organizers of the rally say that there’s enough money in the health care system to provide coverage to everyone, including the 51,000 Vermonters now without health insurance. But they say the money is used inefficiently because of administrative costs in the private insurance system.

Doctor Deb Richter is a family physician who practices in Cambridge and a founding member of the organization Health Care for All. She says a study done for the state last year found that putting everyone under a single payment system could save $100 million.

(Richter) “If you suddenly have a health system where everyone has the same benefits, and there’s the same reimbursement rates for all patients, then your administrative costs are actually cut in half. And that actually frees up a lot of money that was previously spent on administration that now can be spent on medical care.”

(Dillon) Richter says she’s not talking about socialized medicine, where doctors and hospitals are part of the government. She says the providers would still be private, but public funds would be used to pay them.

The money would come from a combination of income taxes, payroll taxes and other revenue. This would take the place of private insurance premiums and other payments like co-pays and deductibles.

(Richter) “It’s nothing personal. It isn’t that the insurance companies are bad, it’s that they’re not needed. Essentially, in a health care system, you have patients who need medical care. And you need a way to pay for that medical care in a reasonable way, in a fair way. You don’t need insurance companies to be in the middle of it.”

(Dillon) Richter says there’s more support in the Vermont medical community than there was in the 1990s during an earlier push for reform.

(Richter) “We’re going to have a dozen doctors and nurses giving very brief testimony of their support for universal health care system. And I think that’s what makes this different than the movement back in 1993, by the way. We have an enormous amount of support on the part of physicians that was not there before.”

(Dillon) The rally starts at noon at the Statehouse and includes national advocates as well as local health care professionals.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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