Single payer critique does not hold up

February 28, 2014

Stowe Today
By: Lee Russ, Bennington

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann’s column “Single-payer system: an unhealthy choice” (Feb. 20) spends more time criticizing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and our state’s online health exchange than it does explaining her opposition to single payer health care. It makes no sense to use problems with the ACA rollout as a justification for opposing Green Mountain Care (GMC), the completely different publicly funded universal health care program planned for 2017.

When Rep. Scheuermann does get around to GMC, she offers three reasons for opposing it: 1) It will cost $2 billion; 2) state government has neither the flexibility nor the decision-making ability to run and manage a system as complex as GMC; and 3) Vermont’s government is not the best-equipped entity to contain health care costs.

Saying GMC will cost $2 billion makes it sound like we would spend everything we spend now plus another $2 billion. This is not true, and I’m sure Rep. Scheuermann knows that. When GMC is implemented, the money currently spent on premiums for health insurance (not to mention deductibles, co-pays, etc.) would be replaced by the tax revenue raised to pay for GMC. The overall amount of money spent on health care in Vermont is estimated to go down, not up, after GMC is implemented.

Rep. Scheuermann’s other points don’t really hold up, either. The state already has considerable experience running major portions of health care in Vermont through Medicaid, the Vermont Health Access Program, etc. Keep in mind that the government doesn’t really “run” medical care under these programs; it pays for it within the guidelines of the specific program.

Finally, if the state government is not equipped to contain health care costs, what entity is? The commercial health insurers who have failed miserably at that job for decades? All the other industrial nations have some form of national health care, and all the other industrial nations have lower health care costs than we do.