Should Vermont pursue single-payer based on federal reform?

Editor’s note: James Haslam is the director of the Vermont Workers’ Center. He coordinated the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign in 2008.

This week that is the question being asked by Vermont’s joint legislative healthcare committees. We say Yes! The current version of S.88 calls for implementation in 2012 of a real universal healthcare system (see our breakdown of the bill here: ). The new federal health bill will set up healthcare insurance state exchanges in 2014 which could interfere with state universal healthcare system. But the new bill does establish the right of state’s to make their own universal single-payer healthcare system in 2017. But Sen. Bernie Sanders and and others are pushing to pass new legislation to move that date up until 2014.

From David Reynolds, Senior Health Policy Advisor for Senator Bernie Sanders, who spoke to at a joint meeting of the Senate-House health committees:

“Since last week, the one question I have been repeatedly asked in various forms by single payer advocates, legislators, and policy makers in Vermont is:
Should Vermont continue to pursue a single payer system given that the earliest date for waivers is 2017 and, before then, Vermont would have to set up an exchange?”

We must not let the vested interests in the current system, may they be those directly profiting under the current system or those acting on their behalf, get in the way of real progress.

ANSWER: Yes, Vermont should proceed with legislation. We intend, before 2014, to seek a change in the waiver date to 2014. If Vermont and other states pass legislation to set up a single payer system, it will provide added leverage for us and our allies in the Senate to get this change adopted. “

For the sake of the millions of people like us who suffer and die each year in our broken market based healthcare system, Vermont must continue moving forward to lead the country. We must not let the vested interests in the current system, may they be those directly profiting under the current system or those acting on their behalf, get in the way of real progress.

We must pass a strong version of S.88 which develops implementation plans of how Vermont would navigate the federal programs and receive waivers where we need them. The bill calls for this to be designed for January 2011 and implemented in 2012. We can start putting our system in place prior to the state exchanges and work with Sen. Sanders and the rest of our delegation to get any additional waivers we need to make it work. We cannot let this be an excuse to preserve the status quo.

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  • Meredith Anton

    Vermont is the only state that has residents who will challenge the status quo, corporate controlled health insurance debacle of an industry!

    I strongly support universal health care (as opposed to health insurance) reform and will voice my opinion to others here in Vermont.

    Maybe, just maybe….there is a chance we can do this!

    Meredith Anton

  • walter carpenter

    Meredith: I am in on the fight with James and the center as well. It is a huge one, like the battle of Gettysburg almost, but with the pressure that we have been applying to the legislature we are pushing it ahead. As Bernie accurately said, “health care is the civil rights battle of our time.” Paraphrase anyway. But we are pushing against well established market forces in a system that is designed to favor them, not us, even in Vermont. The corporations control Vermont as much as they do everywhere else, but in Vermont we’re standing up to them.

    I sit in on committee meetings. Many of the legislators are on our side as well, are sick of the only country in the developed world where an illness means bankruptcy. We have to help push them to push against Jim Douglas and the status quo. Come to the rallies. Show them you’re out there and will not go away. That’s what they need.