Peter Shumlin got it wrong when he backed down from implementing a single-payer healthcare system in Vermont in 2014. Five years later, middle and lower income people all over Vermont are struggling even harder to meet the rising costs of health care.
The recent state survey found that 3 percent of Vermonters under age 65 are uninsured while another 36 percent are underinsured (unable to afford the copayments and deductibles). More than 14,000 people here in Bennington County — men, women, and children — have inadequate or no health insurance. Some are dying as a result. Why?
Shumlin’s December 2014 report never said that single payer would be more expensive than our current system. In fact, the Shumlin report said single payer would save $378 million over the first five years. Why wasn’t that enough of an incentive to implement a single payer plan? His fear of increasing taxes caused him to ignore the administrative cost savings and benefits of improving access, while lowering the cost of care for everyone at all income levels.
The efficiency of single payer had already been documented by the U.S. Government Accounting Office when it reported in 1991 that adoption of a Canadian style system would save "more than enough " to pay coverage for the millions of Americans then uninsured, with "enough left over to permit a reduction, or possibly even the elimination, of copayments and deductibles….."
The U.S. now employs an economic hierarchy in which access to healthcare is determined by our income level, while practically all other countries with a first world economy provide every citizen with healthcare and a better quality of life.
Health care will be the biggest topic in the 2020 election. Health care industry groups like the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future will spend millions, maybe billions, wining and dining members of Congress on weekend retreats and lobbying hard against Improved Medicare For All. However, I believe that citizens and dedicated legislators all over America are ready to fight for our basic human right to accessible, affordable health care for everyone, regardless of income or the place where we live.
Let’s not repeat past mistakes. Vermont still has the opportunity to become the first state to implement universal health care.
Legislators, your constituents are counting on you to do the right thing.
Bennington RAD, Healthcare Committee member
Bennington, May 18