Politics

The Vermont Senate Passes Bill Establishing A Single Payer Health Care System In The State

As ThinkProgress previously reported, the Vermont legislature, led by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), has been considering a proposal to establish some sort of single payer health care system — a system in which a single public insurer provides health insurance to all state residents, similar to the Medicare system for American seniors.

Last month, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 92-49 to advance a bill that would create a single payer system in the state. Now, the Vermont Senate has followed suit, voting 21-9 for the bill:

The Vermont Senate gave final approval to health care reform legislation Tuesday. The vote came after lengthy debate on amendments– many of them aimed at making the bill more palatable for businesses. Republicans introduced several amendments that they say would reduce the costs for businesses. But the strong Democratic majority easily rejected those amendments. […] The bill passed 21-9.

Now that the bill has passed both the House of Representatives and Senate, it will move to a conference committee to reconcile the two versions of the bill. It will then go to the desk of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D), who strongly supports the bill. Shumlin has said that it will make Vermont the first state where “health care will be a right and not a privilege.”

A bigger hurdle Vermont faces is obtaining a waiver from the federal health care reform act and finding a way around federal ERISA laws — which “pre-empt states from enacting legislation if it is ‘related to’ employee benefit plans” –- that insurers could use to sue the state. The health reform law currently offers a waiver to states who meet certain standards by 2017. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up to 2014 — an idea that President Obama has endorsed.