Working Out Health Reform Takes Time

March 21, 2012

Burlington Free Press

In her Feb. 26 letter (“How will health care reform be financed?”), Diane Ballou writes, “I have a suspicion that our new health care system is going to be impossible and so I would just like to know before the election how it is going to be financed.”

Does she mean Vermont’s ultimate goal of a single-payer health care system or the temporary exchange which federal law requires us to implement first? Remember: the exchange currently under discussion will last just a few years until Vermont can get the necessary waiver to establish single-payer — the system for which Gov. Shumlin campaigned and which the Legislature as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders and many health-care economists strongly endorse.

If Ms. Ballou means single-payer, why does she “suspect” it will be impossible? Single-payer works well in every modern democracy except the U.S. Its premise is that everyone pays fairly into a system that provides good, affordable health care for all. It saves money by eliminating the private insurance middlemen who charge exorbitant fees, then deny care and squander millions on advertising and overhead.

Ads attacking single-payer claim that its supporters aren’t trustworthy or are “hiding something” because they cannot say immediately exactly how the financing will work or precisely how it will run. Yes, working through the details will take time. But many other countries have proved it is entirely possible to design a system that includes everyone and frees us from the senseless dependence of health care on employment and fear that serious illness will bring financial ruin.

JUDY OLINICK, Middlebury