From Mother Jones:
Advocates celebrate, but critics warn: A few details—like, er, funding—have yet to be worked out.
Mon May. 30, 2011 3:15 AM PDT
As Gov. Peter Shumlin took his spot on the granite steps of the Vermont State House, a row of people fanned out behind him wearing bright red t-shirts proclaiming, “Health care is a human right.” The slogan sounded noble, and wildly unrealistic. Until the governor spoke.
“We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America,” began Shumlin, a Democrat who has been governor barely four months. “To do in Vermont what has taken too long: have a health care system, the best in the world, that treats health care as a right, and not a privilege.”
Moments later, the governor made history, signing a law that sets Vermont on a course to provide health care for all of its 620,000 citizens through a European-style single payer system called Green Mountain Care. Key components include containing costs by setting reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamlining administration into a single, state-managed system. The federal health care reform law would not allow Vermont to enact single payer until 2017; Vermont is asking the administration to grant it a waiver so that it can get there even faster, by 2014.
The push for single payer system in Vermont was built slowly and methodically over the last decade, but has moved with remarkable speed since Shumlin took office in January. A few weeks after the new governor’s inauguration, the Democratic-controlled legislature convened a rare joint session to hear from Dr. William Hsiao, a Harvard economist who has been involved in designing health care systems in seven countries. Last year, the legislature commissioned Hsiao to analyze the costs and benefits of various health care options, ranging from single payer to a fully privately managed system. The soft-spoken economist told a packed state House that a single payer plan would be about 25 percent cheaper for consumers, businesses, and the government than the current system of private health insurance, saving about $500 million in just the first year. (more…)