Shumlin Says Single-Payer Alternative Based On 'Failed Model'

April 16, 2014

 Vermont Public Radio

By JOHN DILLON
Gov. Peter Shumlin is dismissing a legislative consultant’s plan that lawmakers could use as an alternative to the administration’s single-payer health proposal.

The concept memo was drafted for the Legislature by health care economist Ken Thorpe. His plan was conceived as an alternative to single-payer, and would extend health coverage for more Vermonters by relying on state and federal subsidies as well as the existing insurance-based system.

Shumlin plans to present his proposal for a publicly-funded health care system next year. The controversy over consultant Ken Thorpe's proposal – dubbed Plan B by some lawmakers – could be a preview of next year's debate over health care financing.
At his weekly news conference, Shumlin said Thorpe’s ideas were based on “a failed model” of health care financing.

“But it basically asks us to do what we’ve always done, which is raise taxes on hard working Vermonters to pay for people that can afford health care and then ask Vermonters – the middle class – to also continue to pay for rising health care premiums that they can’t afford. It hasn’t worked,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin plans to present his proposal for a publicly-funded health care system next year. The controversy over Thorpe’s proposal – dubbed Plan B by some lawmakers – could be a preview of next year’s debate over health care financing.

Shumlin points out that Thorpe developed a previous system called Catamount Health that used state subsidies to expand coverage. Shumlin dismissed Thorpe’s current proposal as “Catamount on steroids.”

“The consultant, as you know that was hired by the Legislature, was involved in health care reform in the past in Vermont,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise us that some folks are taking some old ideas and are tuning them up.”

Shumlin said lawmakers are on record for supporting single payer when they voted for the plan in 2011.

“We’re in this together. The Legislature has approved, and I have signed legislation, that commits Vermont to moving toward the first sensible health care system in the country, where we have a single payer, where everyone has health care by right of citizenship in Vermont.

But the governor also acknowledges that it’s the Legislature’s responsibility to consider alternatives to single payer.