New Health Care Law Gives Authority To Governor’s Office

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin will sign the new health care bill into law Thursday morning.

The legislation creates a new five person board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in the state.

But, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the bill also delegates a lot of authority to the Governor’s office to develop key policies.

(Kinzel) The Board is expected to be in place by the end of the summer and its initial responsibility is to find ways to reduce health care costs including a new payment system for providers that will replace the current fee for service model.

At the same time, the Shumlin Administration will also play a major role in the effort to overhaul the state’s health care system.

This will include developing a medical malpractice reform plan, looking at how to integrate Medicare and Medicaid into the state’s single payer system, and implementing a consumer health care exchange by 2014.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding will lead the governor’s overall effort and Spaulding says the first step is to hire a new state health care director who will report directly to him:

(Spaulding) "The responsibility of that person is primarily to make sure that we are fully coordinated between all of the arms of state government that have an important role in delivery and regulation of health care. And essentially, we want to make sure that the symphony is all playing the same song and that we’re well coordinated."

(Kinzel) Although the bill doesn’t call for a specific plan to finance a single payer system until the winter of 2013, Spaulding says he wants to make progress on this issue in the next few months.

(Spaulding) "My hope is – over the summer, with the help of an advisory committee – that we can begin to lay out some principles that will give some comfort to the business community and to individuals as well. Such as not over relying on one revenue source. As not putting us in an uncompetitive situation with other states… Looking for revenue sources that are relatively stable."

(Kinzel) And Spaulding says it’s very clear that the Governor won’t push ahead with a single payer plan in 2014 unless cost control measures have been successful in slowing down the growth rate of health care expenses.

(Spaulding) "We need to make sure that we are able to demonstrate to the people that are going to be insured and helping to pay for it that we can control costs. And the governor said he’s not pulling the switch unless we can demonstrate we are going to be saving money compared to not doing anything."

(Kinzel) Spaulding says he’s convinced that Vermont can be the first state in the country to control health care costs because he thinks most providers realize that maintaining the status quo is not a financially sustainable option.

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

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