Shumlin administration, legislative leaders to charge committee with creating financing plan for single payer health care system

February 19, 2013

VTDigger

The Shumlin administration and top legislative leaders are planning to form a nine-member committee tasked with creating a financing plan to fund a single-payer health care system.

These talks among state government leadership come roughly one month after the administration submitted an outline for a plan [1] that called for $1.6 billion in new taxes — without specifying the sources of revenue. House representatives, mainly from the Republican Party, called out the administration for allegedly failing to comply with Vermont law. [2] The administration disagreed.

The administration wants the nine-member committee to figure out by 2015 how taxpayers would finance such a system. The committee will also gather public input.

House Speaker Shap Smith said the committee would analyze the recent single-payer study, which was contracted out to the University of Massachusetts, and go from there. [3]

“It’s to start as a baseline to look at what the UMass study put out and then work to formulate a financing plan for a single-payer system,” Smith said. “It’s meant to look at what’s the most appropriate way to finance something like this is.”

As Pete Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau first reported, [4] the commission would include: two members of the administration appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, two representatives appointed by Smith and two senators appointed by Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Shumlin, Smith and Campbell would then choose the final three members.

Those remaining committee members would most likely be residents chosen from outside of state government, according to Robin Lunge, the administration’s director of Health Care Reform.

Although state leadership is ironing out specifics, the administration wants the Legislature to pass a bill this session that would lay the groundwork for the formation of this committee.

Lunge hopes that all of the committee members will be appointed by the end of the summer and that the committee can submit a concrete financing proposal to fund a universal health care system by the 2015 legislative session.

She is concerned, however, that if the committee begins taking public input before 2014, the state could confuse people — as roughly 110,000 Vermont residents will feel the effects of the federal health care reform law over the next year.

The new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, is set to open on Oct. 1, 2013, and all Vermonters who are independently insured or work for businesses with 50 or fewer employees will be legally required to purchase health insurance on the exchange beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

The single-payer system cannot be implemented until 2017, at the very earliest. That is when the state can obtain a waiver permitting it to deviate from the requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.

“It’s a long time from now, so we’ll see how this work flows forward,” said Lunge.