Malek says state should do more for access to health care

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(Host) Physician Marvin Malek brings his own health care experience to his Progressive Party campaign for lieutenant governor.

The medical doctor says Vermont needs to do more to provide universal access to health care.

Today two of Malek’s patients told their own stories of expensive care and insurance bureaucracies.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Walter Budzyn owns a tire store in South Barre. He says health insurance is a benefit his company can’t afford to provide.

(Budzyn)”And I can’t afford health insurance even for myself as a business owner. My medical bills right now average about $7,000 a year just for medication, doctor’s visits and lab tests. And how am I going to even get close to having insurance for my employees? I can’t.”

(Dillon) Tim Lathrop is also a patient of Dr. Malek’s. Lathrop has health coverage. But when he needed testing and treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes, he discovered that many of his bills were not covered by his insurance plan. Lathrop spoke at Budzyn’s tire store.

(Lathrop) “We go to the hospital to get the blood test done and we ended up with a $1200 bill that they wouldn’t cover. You know, I’m just a working guy. We didn’t have a lot of money. And all of a sudden, we got a $1200 bill we weren’t expecting.”

(Dillon) Dr. Malek says these two stories are not unique. The Progressive Party candidate for lieutenant governor says the Catamount health plan that the Legislature passed last spring doesn’t go far enough to reduce costs or extend coverage.

(Malek) “There are a lot of little stories, a lot of them are sort of unique. But when you start adding them up, it’s part of the same big picture. People getting into categories, falling out of categories. No one is secure in their health care in Vermont or in the United States as a whole. We can do much better.”

(Dillon) Malek advocates a single payer system to save administrative costs and provide universal coverage.

Like Malek, Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Matt Dunne believes that the Catamount plan is not enough. Dunne wants the state to establish a self-insurance pool that would cover all Vermonters.

(Dunne) “I believe that Vermont can lead the nation by self insuring, by putting all Vermonters into a pool, those that are not under Medicare or ERISA, and then being able to use the marketplace to bid out for an administrator to be able to make sure those folks are covered, that we reimburse for things that make Vermonters healthier, and that we save money in the long term.”

(Dillon) But the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, Republican Brian Dubie, says the state made a good start with the Catamount plan.

(Dubie) “It’s my opinion that the best thing we can do is work to implement that bill, while keeping an eye on the future about trying to work for future reforms. But in light of the work that was done in the legislative session, I think the most responsible thing to do now is to do the due diligence that that bill requires.”

(Dillon) Malek says he looks forward to debating Dubie and Dunne on their various health care proposals.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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