How To Pay For Single Payer? The Answer Will Have To Wait

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Decision to delay vote on single payer health care financing plan becomes issue in gubernatorial campaign.

When lawmakers passed the health care law last session, the bill included a provision that called on the Shumlin Administration to identify several ways to finance a single payer health care system early next year.

The Administration hired the University of Massachusetts Medical School to help with this project. The report will be made available in January, but the Administration isn’t going to ask lawmakers to act on the plan for several years.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says the 2013 date was chosen when it seemed that the state might get a federal waiver to implement a single payer plan in the next few years.  But Spaulding says that possibility now seems remote so he doesn’t think it makes any sense to vote on a financing plan until at least 2015.

"I can’t imagine the Legislature would even consider passing a finance plan for something that didn’t take affect for another couple of years," said Spaulding. "So again we will be complying with the law but we will not be asking the Legislature to pass a finance plan for Green Mountain Care this coming winter."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock wants voters to see the options before the November election and he says the Administration is delaying the process to avoid a political backlash from voters.

"Prior to the election it’s very clear that they don’t want to talk about the cost of this program to Vermonters. And Vermonters keep asking the same question; how much is it going to cost and how are we going to pay for it," said Brock. "And after a $300,000 consulting study and after perhaps $100 million on an Exchange that is designed to propel us towards single payer we have answers to none of the fundamental questions that people have been asking for well over a year."

And Brock says options identified in 2013 could well be out of date by 2015.

"Having some numbers today and not acting on it until two years later strikes me as being meaningless," said Brock. "All kinds of things can change in two years and what people are looking for is the ability to plan with a degree of certainty. This gives us nothing towards that end."

Spaulding disagrees. He says a lot of time is needed to have a thorough public dialogue about the options that are selected.

"So to actually have two or three a menu of a few different ways that we could finance the system we’re looking for will be very helpful," said Spaulding. "And I often hear people say hey we shouldn’t try to rush these big plans through in one year and this is a case where we won’t have to do that."

Spaulding says the extra time will also give the Administration an opportunity to fully review if additional federal money might be available to help implement a single payer system.


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