Vermont Senate Ready To Consider Health Reform Bill

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(Host) The Vermont Senate is getting ready to debate a bill that could provide a framework for major changes in the state’s health care system.

The legislation calls for a detailed study of various reform options- including a state single payer system.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Chittenden senator Doug Racine is the lead sponsor of the bill and the legislation has become a signature issue in Racine’s campaign to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

The bill calls for the state’s Health Care Reform Commission to look at several options to achieve universal access to health care in Vermont.

Racine says this kind of study is needed before lawmakers can seriously consider making major changes to the state’s health care system – changes that could affect Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance policies, and companies that self insure:

(Racine) "This bill is an opportunity to put some very specific proposals on the table for the next Legislature and the next governor to consider. And we haven’t had that – we’ve had these broad philosophical discussions about the role of government and whether you’re for or against single payer system but we’ve never had specifics to look at."

(Kinzel) Racine says major changes are needed because it’s clear that the state’s current program to provide coverage, Catamount Health Care, isn’t the answer to universal access:

(Racine) "We need to do something more structural. We need to do something more basic to reform health care in this state. And that’s getting at issues of how we finance it and how do we pay our medical bills. There’s recognition in this legislation that the fee for service system that we have is part of the problem."

(Kinzel) Some lawmakers question whether another study of health care is really needed. Racine argues that his bill is much more than just another study:

(Racine) "So it’s not just a study – how well does this work in theory – but it’s a process to give us a design and implementation strategy for it, and then the Legislature can decide whether that’s the route we want to go."

(Kinzel) The legislation appropriates two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the new studies and it calls for the report to be delivered to the Legislature next January.

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


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