Health reform advocates urge Vt. move to single-payer system

December 02, 2014


By Stewart Ledbetter

MONTPELIER, Vt. —Supporters of a plan for Vermont to become the first state in the country to enact a single-payer health care system are urging the governor and Legislature to move forward with the plan without delay.

Sixteen groups, including the state employees' and teachers' unions said Tuesday that the November election results should not slow the push to adopt Green Mountain Care, the state's universal, publicly funded system.

"We need to do this," Vermont NEA President Martha Allen said.

Once its champion, Gov. Peter Shumlin has seemed less outspoken about advancing a $2 billion reform plan in recent weeks.

Shumlin barely survived a re-election challenge from Republican Scott Milne Nov. 4.

The administration is scheduled to release details on projected costs and coverage benefits when lawmakers return to Montpelier in January.

Supporters think that will galvanize public support.

"Listen to the people," said James Haslam of Vermont Workers Center. "Give us something worth fighting for."

Dan Barlow of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility said decoupling health insurance from employment will allow businesses to expand and create jobs while providing coverage to uninsured Vermonters will reduce health care costs by reducing emergency room visits.

Even critics of single-payer expect lawmakers might approve it, especially if the state gets an extra nudge from the Obama administration.

"This is really what (President Barack Obama) wanted in health care reform and he wants Vermont to be the first to do it," said Darcie Johnston, president of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom. "So they'll push this ahead. When has this legislature said no to this governor?"