NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Vermont Edges toward Single Payer Health Care

October 6, 2011

Vermont has begun building a single-payer health system to provide health insurance to the state's residents.  The publicly financed program will provide near-universal coverage and will simultaneously check rising health care costs by setting fees to doctors and hospitals, in addition to other proposed reforms.  The new policy, working in tandem with federal regulations and collaborating with the nationwide health care reform, will not be implemented for several years as specific provisions are firmed up, but its breadth of coverage and foundational reforms remain ambitious, says Kaiser Health News.

This single-payer system, dubbed Green Mountain Care, has received significant criticism from a variety of sources.  The standard concerns regarding loss of control over employer-provided health insurance and the threat to the private sector of health care have been prevalent.  Additional arguments have been made about the legality of the policy.  Yet the attacks, over time, have come to target one aspect of the policy: financing it.

  • While the state legislature passed the bill and the governor signed it into law, this plan was void of a concrete strategy for implementation and financing.
  • This problem was chalked up to the five-member Green Mountain Care Board, which will set specific policies for the plan and assess its aggregate costs, leaving the final decision of how to fund it to the secretary of administration.

Detractors highlight the folly of passing a policy with no clear guidance as to how to fund it, especially given the budget constrictions of the economy.  Relevant to this line of attack, the state faced a $150 million shortfall this year -- a fact that has critics reeling as to how the state can afford to further bolster its spending.

Source: Jessica Marcy, "Vermont Edges toward Single Payer Health Care," Kaiser Health News, October 2, 2011.

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