Shumlin's Health Care Strategy Would Pave Way for Single Payer System

February 14, 2012

VPR

The Shumlin Administration revealed a strategy on Tuesday that, at first glance, appears to undermine its own health care plan for small businesses.

But as VPR's Bob Kinzel reports, the Administration's actions are geared to make it easier to implement a single-payer system.

(Kinzel) Under the new federal health care law, states are required to establish their own consumer marketplace exchange where small businesses and individuals can purchase policies beginning in 2014.

The federal law also provides sizeable subsidies for individuals based on their income. For instance, a person making $30,000 a year would pay roughly 8 percent of their income for health care - or about $2,400 a year. Federal subsidies would pay the rest of the cost of the policy.

Steve Kimball is the state's Banking and Insurance commissioner. He thinks businesses with fewer than 50 employees should drop their coverage beginning in 2014 because they can save a lot of money and their employees would be eligible for the federal subsidies. Kimbell says it's a good transition to a single payer plan.

(Kimbell) "More than two thirds of the people who work in the state of Vermont work in companies that size. So this is a huge deal and if I were a small employer I would educate my employees about their options and turn them loose."

(Kinzel) Robin Lunge is the director of Health Care for the Shumlin Administration. She says there are other benefits for employees who choose to get individual coverage.

(Lunge) "Because right now there are lots of people who stick with a job because it has insurance and they don't make life changes because they need that insurance or they lose their job they lose their Insurance. What this gives us an opportunity to do is make sure people stay covered even through the life changes."

(Kinzel) Peter Sterling is a spokesperson for the Vermont Campaign For Health Care Security. He likes the Administration's approach.

(Sterling) "Many employees who work for small employers because of the high cost of health care are in very high deductible plans. I'm talking abut $5, $6 $10,000 plans so in the Exchange they would be getting subsidies to get much more comprehensive benefits packages and plans with lower out of pocket costs."

(Kinzel) Shawn Shouldice is the director of the Vermont chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Many of her members are small employers. She has serious concerns about the Administration's strategy.

(Shouldice) "We continue to rely on federal dollars that seem to dry up. They're drying up everywhere and it's not just in health care. So we have an overarching concern about the continued reliance or over reliance on the drawing down of federal dollars to promote and sell public policy issues within Montpelier."

(Kinzel) The House is expected to debate the Administration's health care bill by the end of the month.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel