Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill yesterday authorizing the state to adopt single payer health care - a move some liberals are cheering, saying the state could be a model for single payer on a much larger scale. In 2017 at the earliest, Vermonters will be guaranteed health care coverage. .In an interview with the International Business Times, Dr. Deborah Richter, M.D. of Vermont Health Care For All (VTHCA), a Vermont-based non-profit organization, responded to questions about this bill.
QUESTION: Will it cover everyone?
- Richter: That is the intention, to cover every resident of Vermont.
QUESTION: How does it work?
- Richter: Essentially, you no longer need health insurance because it will pay for everyone. Think of it like public schools.
QUESTION: How will it be financed?
- Richter: Vermont residents will pay into the single-payer fund based on their income.
QUESTION: Can Vermont afford it?
- Richter: Total costs are already going up 7 to 8 percent per year, so the [status quo] isn’t affordable. The single-payer health care system puts a budget around health care, so we’ll be spending less in total. There are also efficiencies. We will do health planning. For example, if it looks like we have too many hospital beds for our population, we’ll reduce that number. We will save on administrative costs of having only a single-payer [that health care providers deal with. We will have uniform rates, which mean all providers will be paid the same rate. This will further save administrative costs.
QUESTION: How do you think Vermont lawmakers arrived at the conclusion that it’s affordable?
- Richter: We have an assessment from a Harvard economist who designed the system in Taiwan. The system has a track record of saving money. We have examples around the industrialized world that show us that we, too, can spend less and get better care.
QUESTION: How do you cut down on frivolous hospital visits and waste?
- Richter: Studies have shown that [frivolous visits] happen mostly because people don’t have a primary care doctor. The bill will expand the primary care workforce, which will cut down frivolous visits. Also, people generally don’t enjoy [spending a lot of time in hospitals.
QUESTION: Any further comments?
- Richter: It’s the most fiscally conservative way to cover everybody. I’m amazed people don’t want to embrace this. It’s going to cost less money and give everybody better care.
QUESTION: Can every state do it?
- Richter: Absolutely