As we previously reported, the Vermont legislature is currently considering a proposal that would pave the way for the state to enact a single payer health care system. While the proposal’s authors found that the state would be able to offer more comprehensive health care and save more money than the recently-passed federal health care law if it were to enact single payer, it is important to note that under current law the state cannot request a waiver to be exempted from the federal health law until 2017.
To counter this, Vermont’s congressional delegation is backing an amendment by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) that would move the waiver date up from 2017 to 2014. Earlier this week, Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jan Schawkowsky (D-IL) told ThinkProgress that they support Welch’s amendment; additionally, Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) appeared to support the principle behind the amendment.
Today, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin (D), who supports the single-payer proposal, appeared on Democracy Now! to talk about his plans to enact it. He explained that he would like to build a bipartisan coalition under the principle of local control and state’s rights to get the waiver date moved up, and told Goodman that, by requesting a change in the waiver, Vermont was not “asking for one additional federal dollar.” Rather, the state is asking to be “able to pool our federal dollars into our existing system here in Vermont, in a uniform system. And I think that will appeal, frankly, to more conservative members of the Republican Congress.” “Give us local control,” he continued. “I think that will appeal to, frankly, some of the Tea Party governors that I have just been elected with”:
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Shumlin, why doesn’t it conflict with Obama’s healthcare proposal? What are the waivers you would need?
GOV. PETER SHUMLIN: Well, the biggest waiver we need—and, you know, we have an incredible congressional delegation, Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Representative Welch—but the biggest waiver we need is to ensure that by 2014 we can get the waivers that we need to implement this plan. And really what we want to do is—we’re not asking for one additional federal dollar. All we’re asking is that we are able to pool our federal dollars into our existing system here in Vermont in a uniform system. And I think that will appeal, frankly, to more conservative members of the Republican Congress. What we’re saying is, give us local control. Let us go our own way. We’re not asking for more federal dollars than any other state. What we are asking is that you let state rights stand up and let us design our own system, using those federal dollars as we see fit. And I think that will appeal to, frankly, some of the Tea Party governors that I have just been elected with.
Vermont Digger asked Leigh Tofferi, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield lobbyist based in the state, about the possible move to a single payer system. “If there’s a single payer system, we’d like to be the single payer,” she replied. Harvard’s Dr. William Tsiao, who helped design the Taiwanese single payer system and was one of the consultants responsible for drafting Vermont’s single payer proposal, noted that private insurance companies could continue to play a role in a single payer system by providing supplementary insurance, much like they do with Medicare. However, he also warned that instead of working with reformers, insurers could also use their “deep pockets nationally [to] oppose reforms due to the threats they pose to the Vermont market and other markets that could follow Vermont’s lead.”