By Bob Kinzel for VPR –
Montpelier, VT – (Host) The House Health Care Committee is set to approve a bill that sets Vermont on the path of a single payer health care system.
The bill is one of Governor Peter Shumlin’s top priorities for the 2011 session.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The legislation has two important parts. It creates so-called federal exchanges that are part of the new national health care law.
By taking this action, the state will be able to draw down millions of new federal dollars to streamline the administrative process for health care, including a system to simplify claims forms.
The bill also creates a new five-person Health Care Board that will oversee virtually every aspect of Vermont’s health care system.
It’s modeled after the operations of the Public Service Board. The panel will set a global health care budget for the state and it will review hospital budgets and private insurance rates.
Lincoln Rep. Mike Fisher is the vice chairman of the House committee and a strong supporter of the bill.
(Fisher) “Right now nobody’s in charge of this giant health care – spending $5.5 billion – or maybe lots of people think they’re in charge of little pieces of it. But there’s no real coordination. This bill moves us toward a more intentionality in our health care planning and health care implementation.”
(Kinzel) Fisher says one of the key priorities of the Health Care Board will be designing new cost containment measures for the state.
(Fisher) “It helps us move in a better direction. Currently we all know what’s happening to health care spending. We’re moving toward an abyss and we can all see it happening right before our eyes. The inflation in health care is just not sustainable we’re attempting to build an off-ramp, a way to go that avoids a disaster that has been predicted for some time.”
(Kinzel) Bennington Rep. Mary Morrissey also serves on the House Health Care Committee. She’s concerned that the bill isn’t financially sustainable.
(Morrissey) “There’s been a lot of promises over the years to not only the consumer in health care but also our providers that we haven’t always as a state kept our part of the bargain. There’s nothing worse than promising the moon and then pulling out the rug from under folks in a very short time.”
(Kinzel) And Morrissey thinks it’s a mistake to rush this legislation through the House.
(Morrissey) “There’s language changing on the federal level. There’s language that we don’t know quite what it will look like at the end of the day for us. And so to be trying to connect those two to make this work and understanding we probably have between nine and 15 waivers that we have to get from the federal government.”
(Kinzel) Democratic leaders are hoping to have the bill on the House floor for a vote by the end of next week.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.