House health care committee quashes bill to delay single-payer

A bill that would delay the implementation of Green Mountain Care, the state’s planned universal public health care program, won’t make it out of committee.

The bill was sent to the House Health Care Committee, which voted Wednesday on bills it plans to work through before crossover. H.858, which would push the governor’s single payer plan to 2019, didn’t make the cut.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising,” said Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, the bill’s primary sponsor.

Though H.858 had picked up a bipartisan group of sponsors, it was essentially dead on arrival.

One of those sponsors was Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, an obstetrician, said the proposal makes good sense, but he recognizes it is largely a symbolic gesture.

“Moving to GMC is a massive change in our medical system,” he said.

If the point is to cover every Vermonter and lower health care costs, then it’s important to know exactly what those costs are now, he said.

“If you want to ask, ‘Are we making a difference with a new system?’ you have to compare it with new data, you can’t compare it with old data,” Till said.

Collecting the data to understand the current health care landscape, which is still shifting with the implementation of the new health care exchange, isn’t feasible by 2017, when Green Mountain Care is expected to begin, he said.

The rocky rollout of Vermont Health Connect means there won’t be good data on how the exchange has altered health care until 2015, according to Till.

With a two-year lag on Medicare data, an accurate picture of current health care reform won’t emerge until at least 2017, he said.

Till said 2017 is an arbitrary timeline for switching to Green Mountain Care.

“It was a political promise by the governor,” he said. “I think that’s a terrible way to make decisions [about health care].”

He supports universal health care, but he said it’s more important to do it right than to do it quickly.

In the past two years Vermont has had the lowest rates of growth in health care costs since the growth rate numbers were first recorded. Till said that eliminates the urgency of further reform.

“The pressures of double digit increases in spending are not there right not now,” he said. “It takes away the urgency of having to make a change.”

Morgan True

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