Lawmakers Poised To Pass “Landmark” Health Bill

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(Host) Vermont legislators are poised to send a historic health care bill to the governor.

House and Senate negotiators resolved the last of their differences Tuesday.

And as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, a final vote in the legislature will come by the end of the week.

(Conference committee) "Thank you very much it’s been great…..thank you……applause…."

(Kinzel) With dozens of people looking on, the six members of the conference committee signed their names to a final version of the bill – a move that sent the legislation to the Senate floor for a vote.

The bill creates insurance exchanges for consumers that will go into place in 2014 and it establishes a 5 person Board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in Vermont.

House Health Care chairman Mark Larson told the members of the conference committee that this is a landmark piece of legislation.

(Larson) "This is obviously a very important bill one that will I think improve the lives of Vermonters and has significant opportunity not only for Vermont as individuals but for our whole state and our economy."

(Kinzel) Senate Health and Welfare chairwoman Claire Ayer said the bill is just a start in the long process toward adopting a single payer system.

(Ayer) "It’s really a road map with lots of check points and lots of rechecking – is there air in the tires, is there gas in the tank, are we on the right route?"

(Kinzel) House Speaker Shap Smith noted that the Canadian publicly financed health care system started with the work of a single province.

(Smith) "We know that such a process started in Saskatchewan a province of Canada in the 1940s and 50s and led to a system of universal health care in that country. And I believe that Vermont can be the Saskatchewan of the United States and I look forward to us moving forward to a universal health care system in the state of Vermont."

(Kinzel) Not everyone was in a mood to celebrate. House Republican leader Don Turner said he’s worried the legislation will inevitably push Vermont into a government run health care system.

(Turner) "We don’t want to see us on a path that we can’t return and that’s what I feel this does. It sets us off on a path that there’s a point of no return."

(Kinzel) The legislation moved to the Senate, and after a short debate, Lt. Governor Phil Scott announced the results of a roll call vote:

(Scott) "Please listen to the results of your vote. The yays 21 the nays 9 and you’ve adopted the report of the committee on conference on H 202."

(Kinzel) It’s likely that the House will consider the conference report on Thursday and give its approval to the bill.  If that happens, the legislation will then go to Governor Shumlin for his signature.

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

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