Shumlin Says Health Care Board Critical To Reform

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin says a special, independent state Health Care Board is a critical part of his overall reform plan.

Some lawmakers are concerned that the five-member Board has too much power and won’t be accountable to the Legislature but Shumlin says that’s not the case.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The creation of this new Board is part of the legislation that the Governor wants lawmakers to pass this year.

The five members of the Board would be appointed by the Governor and Shumlin says the panel would be modeled after the state’s Public Service Board.

The Health Board would establish a statewide health care budget, it would set hospital budgets and review their capital investment plans, it would oversee private health insurance rates, and it would develop a new payment system as an alternative to the current "fee for service" system.

Shumlin says this work is a vital part of his overall plan and he says the Board won’t be operating in a vacuum:

(Shumlin) "I would argue that that’s not a problem, that almost everything that they do is going to have to be in collaboration with the governor and the Legislature to pass the bill in the end that will get us there by 2014. So the checks and balance is the laws that will be required once they make their recommendations, which must be sanctioned by the Legislature and signed by the governor."

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he understands legislative concerns about the creation of the Board but he says the panel needs this authority to help contain costs.

(Shumlin) "Listen, here’s our real challenge: Let’s not quibble over who has the power. Let’s quibble over whether we have the power to contain health care costs and provide universal access."

(Kinzel) Shumlin’s plan doesn’t include a funding mechanism to finance a single payer system.  He says the appropriate time to discuss a funding source is after the state has proven it can contain health care costs.

(Shumlin) "I think once we design that system – and frankly it’s never been done before – then we should figure out how much it will cost and how we ask citizens to pay for it. We know we are all paying for it now. We’re going to pay for it later. The challenge is how do we pay less for more health care and less waste."

(Kinzel) The governor says he’s hopeful that the House will pass his health care bill in the next few weeks.

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

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