Vermont pursues single-payer system

Vermont is taking steps toward creating a single-payer healthcare system which, if implemented, would serve as a test to whether more aggressive government intervention can improve healthcare delivery and reduce costs. 

"For Vermont, it's all about containing costs," Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin told Stateline. He points out that the annual cost of healthcare in Vermont for individuals, businesses and government has doubled to roughly $5 billion a year over the past eight years. "It's killing small businesses … kicking the middle class in the teeth."

Shumlin has enlisted Harvard economist William Hsiao and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber to study how a single-payer healthcare system could work in Vermont, notes MyHealthCafe. Their research results are expected next month.

Single-payer supporters hope to drive private health insurance companies out of existence and free employers from the responsibility of providing health insurance to their employees. They believe that a single-payer system can save money by, for example, eliminating the paperwork and coding claims that hospitals and doctors' offices are required to spend time on. Shumlin and other state lawmakers believe that if providers could deal with just one insurer, they could focus more on providing care and less on processing claims, reports Stateline.

Shumlin said his goal was to "provide (healthcare) access to all Vermonters, contain costs and hopefully design a system where healthcare follows the individual and is not an obligation of the employer, where healthcare is a right and not a privilege," according to the Boston Globe.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Vermont, the state's largest private insurer, has stayed neutral on the single-payer issue. "We don't think it’s our role," Kevin Goddard, the company's vice president of external affairs, told Stateline.

To learn more:
- read the Stateline article
- check out the MyHealthCafe story
- see the Boston Globe piece

Related Articles:
Nurses lobby for single-payer system, new workplace regs 
VT funds EMR adoption with health plan tax 
Court upholds Vermont law on prescription data mining