Health Care Bill Heads To Governor Shumlin

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(Host) Legislation that’s designed to move Vermont to a publicly financed health care system won final approval in the House yesterday afternoon and the bill is now on its way to Governor Peter Shumlin for his signature.  

The bill is one of the Governor’s top priorities for the 2011 session.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Roll Call vote) "Please listen to the results of your vote. Those voting yes 94 those voting no 49 and you have adopted the committee of conference report on H202."

(Kinzel) With those words, House Speaker Shap Smith completed the legislative journey for a bill that backers hope will totally transform the state’s health care system beginning in 2014. 

It establishes an exchange where consumers can compare private insurance policies based on a common benefits package and it creates a new 5 person Board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in the state.

House Health Care chairman Mark Larson said the bill is needed because the state’s current health care system is broken:

(Larson) "Despite all of our state’s healthcare reform efforts for which we are a national leader too many Vermonters continue to be uninsured and even more face financial risk if they get sick or hurt because of inadequate insurance."

(Kinzel) Jericho Rep. George Till is one of the few doctors in the Legislature.  He said he has some concerns with the legislation but he thinks it contains some essential goals:

(Till) "We must have universal access for all Vermonters. There’s a lot of work to do and there are still some very very big hurdles here but that in and of itself is enough to make me support this bill."

(Kinzel) The vote was largely along party lines. The Democrats and Progressives supported it and the Republicans opposed it. Burlington Rep. Kurt Wright summed up the feelings of many members of the Republican caucus.

(Wright) "Did we and do we need reform of our health care industry? Yes, clearly. Do we need to head down a road in which the road appears to send us on a journey in which we turn our health care industry on its head ? No."

(Kinzel) The Governor hopes to implement a single payer system in Vermont in 2014 but he’ll need to obtain waivers from Congress to achieve this goal.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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