The universal healthcare experiment in Vermont

The state of Vermont is planning a 2017 launch of the nation's first universal healthcare system financed by a single payer, the Associated Press reported. Similar to Medicare, Vermont's healthcare would be publicly financed and managed by the government or a government-sanctioned agency.

The system has been called one of the costliest and most closely-watched social experiments of its time.

Advantages of a single payer system include efficiency--doctors and hospitals deal with one payer rather than many--and cost control, as public process determines healthcare spending and providers receive uniform, negotiated rates, according to the Vermont for Single Payer website.

A business payroll tax will likely serve as the main source of funding, the AP noted. Though people are calling it the biggest tax hike in Vermont's history, proponents say lower healthcare premiums will offset the tax increase. However, how much of a bite the surcharge will take from companies that don't offer health insurance benefits remains a big concern.

"The plan could disrupt coverage consumers and employers like and rely on today, limit patients' access to the vital support and assistance health plans provide, and put Vermont taxpayers on the hook for the costs of an unsustainable healthcare system," Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America's Health Insurance Plans, told the AP.

But Vermont's universal healthcare efforts can offer lessons for healthcare organizations and policymakers, argued a perspective piece published in April in the New England Journal of Medicine. The author called out the creation of the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), which has jurisdiction over payment reform, insurance exchanges, rate setting, hospital-budget authorization, resource and workforce allocation, regulation of insurance carriers, and maintenance of a statewide quality-assurance program, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more
- read the AP article
-  check out out the Vermont for Single Payer website