By, Ellen Oxfeld, Vermont for Single Payer Supporter, Middlebury

There is no doubt anymore that the single payer solution to Vermont’s health care woes is growing in popularity with the voters.  Letters to the editor in favor of single payer frequently appear in all our newspapers.  Attendance at single payer events held around the state is consistently large and enthusiastic. Single Payer will save us money and is morally the “right” thing to do.

Our politicians have read the political winds, and many now profess support for the single payer concept. The problem is that these words – “I support  payer” – are often qualified by giving reasons why we can’t implement single payer in Vermont.

So, what are the most common excuses?  I’ll try to list them here, and answer them as well:

1.     If Vermont enacts a single payer system, sick people from all over the country will come here to get care and the system will be bankrupted. [Federal Stalemate Hampers State Healthcare Reforms] In fact, Vermont already has very generous Medicaid provisions as compared with neighboring states.  Yet, people have not moved to Vermont to avail themselves of these provisions because, after all, people need income and jobs as well as health care.  There are small matters like renting a place to live, for instance, that don’t make it so easy to move to a new state just to get health care.

2.      We have to wait until the federal bill passes before we can act. [Federal Stalemate Hampers State Healthcare Reforms]  We already know that the federal bill will not be a single payer bill.  If it passes, it will contain an insurance mandate which requires Americans to purchase private insurance, but it will leave our current system of multiple private insurers in place.  This system is one of the main causes of high costs, and since the federal bill, even if it passes, will not tackle this problem, we do not need to wait for it to pass to start working on single payer in Vermont.

3.      There is no political will for single payer. [Vermont Says State Could Run Catamount For Less]  In fact, there must be political will, because if there were no political will our politicians would not feel the need to say that they support the idea of single payer.  The problem here is a lack of political will amongst our legislators.  Although they profess support for single payer, they still are not tackling the work of holding hearings on single payer legislation and crafting a single payer program for Vermont.

It’s time for the Senate Health Committee to take up S.88, the Single Payer bill, and pass it to the full Senate. Please encourage them to do that by sending them a message today.