Legislative Leaders Consider Steps To Health Care Reform

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(Host) Legislative leaders say it’s critical to take steps during the current session to move Vermont toward a single payer health care system.

It’s likely that lawmakers will be asked to support legislation to create so-called medical "smart cards" that will contain the complete medical records of every patient.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) While the report issued by Dr. William Hsiao calls for Vermont to adopt a modified single payer system by 2015, it also outlines steps that need to be taken to help the state achieve this goal.

Burlington Rep. Mark Larson is the new chairman of the House Health Care committee.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Larson said the Hsaio report clearly details the consequences of not making significant changes to the state’s current health care system.

(Larson) "The more we wait the worse things are going to get. The cost of health care isn’t going to stop growing because we take extra time. So there is a push and pull between the desire to take things deliberately and be sure that all the assumptions are actually accurate and are working, while also recognizing that Vermonters need health care reform soon because the crisis is getting worse and worse."

(Kinzel) Addison senator Claire Ayer is the new chairwoman of the Senate Health Care committee.

She’s hopeful that the Legislature will pass a bill this year that establishes the framework for "health care exchanges" that are part of the new federal reform law.

(Ayer) "One of the nuts and bolts things that we have to have laid out this year is the health insurance exchanges. It’s a way for us to help people shop for health insurance. But to be honest, in Vermont we’re looking at this as added as a platform from which we could move to a single payer. But it will leverage millions and millions of dollars to help us do a couple of really important things."

(Kinzel) At the top of Ayer’s list is the implementation of new medical technology that could affect virtually every person in the state.

(Ayer) "The most important is health care information technology we’re looking at – things called smart cards – where people would have their history with them that gives them better care and eliminates duplication of services. And we’re looking at ways for hospitals and clinics to communicate way to deliver care."

(Kinzel) Senator Ayer and Rep. Larson say they plan to hold a series of public hearings around the state to take testimony on the Hsaio report.

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

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