Shumlin Appoints Board To Oversee Health Reform

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin has taken a major step towards his goal of having Vermont become the first state in the country to adopt a single payer health care system.

Shumlin has appointed the five members of a newly created state Board that will oversee virtually every aspect of health care in Vermont.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Board is comprised of two health care consultants, two doctors and a businessperson. It will review hospital budgets and private health insurance rates, and ultimately it will decide how to pay for a health care system that provides coverage to all Vermonters.

Anya Rader Wallack is the chair of the Board. Last session, she served as the Governor’s chief health care consultant. 

She says the Board’s most immediate challenge is designing a payment system that doesn’t reimburse health care providers for every visit and every test done on a patient – the so called "fee for service" system.

(Rader Wallack) "So there’s a lot of payment reform activity going on and I think we need to quickly get a handle on what makes sense, how to organize that and move it ahead at lightning speed."

(Kinzel) Con Hogan is an international health care consultant who served as Human Services Secretary under Governors Howard Dean and Dick Snelling.  He’s a single payer advocate.

(Hogan) "We are uniquely positioned to do something really positive here and I think that we have to keep that sense of optimism because that it was this is all about."

(Kinzel) Al Gobeille is a businessman in Chittenden County. He says he doesn’t want to get involved in ideological battles but he is certain that the status quo isn’t working.

(Gobeille) "We pay more than any other country and we get less and we don’t live as long… single payer, universal health care to me are all ideological dead ends – they just make people upset and it stops the conversation that could actually lead to a solution."

(Kinzel) Allen Ramsay is a family physician in Colchester and a professor at the UVM Medical College. He wants all Vermonters to have access to a strong primary care system.

(Ramsay) "I know from my experience here that to build an integrated, universally accessible health care system with a mission of quality and cost effectiveness is going to require a foundation in primary care first and foremost."

(Kinzel) The second doctor is Karen Hein. She’s a faculty member at Columbia University where she specializes in adolescent health issues. Most recently, she was the president of the William T. Grant Foundation.

(Hein) "I think this is an opportunity of a lifetime. What we have already done by passing this bill is historic."

(Kinzel) The five Board members will formally begin their work at the beginning of October.

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

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