Single Payer Myths

September 21, 2017


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mary Gerisch, of Bennington, who is a retired civil rights attorney. She is an active leader and board member of Rights & Democracy and is also on the board of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Let’s clear up a few myths about Vermont’s efforts to enact universal — so-called single-payer — health care.

Myth #1: Single-payer health care failed in Vermont. You can’t fail at something you didn’t actually start. Vermont never enacted single-payer health care, even though a report at the time said that it could work. The only failure was that of a single politician who ignored both the overwhelming popular political mandate from his constituents and the well-researched report that showed that a publicly funded, statewide universal health care system could, in fact, succeed and save money in the first seven years. In fact, then-Gov. Peter Shumlin never delivered three financing plans to the Legislature to finance the enacted law, simply saying it “is not the right time” and stopped debate before it could even begin.

Would a doctor claim to say that a medication failed to treat a patient if, in fact, the patient never even filled their prescription? I think we all know the answer is no.

Myth #2: Vermont has abandoned single-payer health care and progress on health care reform has come to a halt. The fact is that Vermont passed a universal health care law in 2011 – known as Act 48 – which is still the law that governs any health care reform efforts unfolding in the state. Most importantly, the governing principles guiding our efforts are ones that should be considered when evaluating any reform effort nationally. Those principles include designing a system that provides universal access, equitable and sustainable funding, transparency in budgeting and the cost of services, freedom for consumers to choose their providers, and prioritization of the provider-patient relationship, among others.

Improvements and proposals to change Vermont’s health care system have been ongoing since 2011 and continue today. In contrast to other states with similar exchanges where premiums have risen astronomically, the Vermont health care exchange that enrolls people into various plans under the Affordable Care Act — and helps with providing premium assistance — has seen substantially lower rate increases. Additionally, a movement to pass universal primary care which includes mental health and substance abuse treatment has flourished in recent years with a bill in the Statehouse that has significant Democratic and Progressive Party (who together make up Vermont’s legislative majority) support and a good shot of passing this upcoming session....(continue to full article on website).