As we 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, where a single public insurer provides health insurance to all state residents, similar to the Medicare system for American seniors.
Last night, the Vermont House of Representatives debated and approved by a 92–49 a bill that would create a single payer system in the state. Shumlin praised the move as making Vermont the first state where “health care will be a right and not a privilege”:
After hours of debate, the Vermont House of Representatives approved a bill that would create a single-payer health care system in Vermont. It passed 92–49. In a meeting right after the vote, the house speaker, the governor and others who worked on the bill called it a historic moment for Vermont.
“Become the first state in the country to make the first substantive step to deliver a health care system where health care will be a right and not a privilege,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin.
The “bill outlines a four-year timeline leading to establishment of the statewide, publicly funded system. It begins by setting up the Green Mountain Care Board on July 1 with a budget of $1.2 million to begin planning the new system. It then creates a health insurance marketplace — or ‘exchange,’ of the sort required by last year’s federal health care legislation. And it then calls for converting the exchange to the Green Mountain Care system.”
Now that it has passed the House of Representatives, it will move on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass. 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.
This week, 200 doctors from 39 states including the District of Columbia signed an open letter saying they would seriously consider moving to the state to practice medicine if it enacted a single payer system. “The idea of having one set of rules, one form for billing, and knowing that all patients are covered — that would be wonderful,” said Scott Graham, a Kentucky family physician who signed the letter.