Seven Days

The rapid disappearance of independent doctors in Vermont [“The Doctor Is Out,” December 8], especially from rural areas, should worry us all.

To me, there is a simple solution to the problem of rural health care’s financial woes and the loss of independent physician practices: a publicly funded universal health care program — single payer — that compensates independent doctors at the same rate as employed doctors and makes no distinction between “Medicare patients,” “Medicaid patients,” “commercial insurance patients” and “uninsured patients.” It would also relieve both employed and independent doctors of the immense administrative burden of dealing with insurance issues: getting approvals, billing, following up on billing issues, etc. And it would rid us of the convoluted and incomprehensible “all-payer model” experiment and the “accountable care organization” running it.

Would young doctors be more willing to practice in Vermont, especially in rural Vermont, if they knew they could practice under those conditions rather than the mishmash of nonmedical concerns that currently occupy them? I think so.

The legislature has an opportunity to resume an active role in solving the problem. A bill in the House Health Care Committee, H.276, would begin the process of moving from our current madness to a sane, publicly funded system, starting with primary care. Is the legislature ready to step up?

Lee Russ