Editor’s note: This commentary is by Lindsay DesLauriers, who is the director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont, a non-profit organization focused on elevating the voice of small business owners on public policy issues.Vermont’s unexpected election results have led to a lot of speculation among Vermonters and in the media. Many have asked whether this election should be interpreted as a reflection on Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s proposed universal, publicly financed, single payer health care system. My response to this is: Yes. The election results suggest we should move forward.
It’s no secret that the implementation of Vermont Health Connect, our execution of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) – sometimes called Obamacare, has been problematic and troubling to many people. The election is very likely, at least in part, a reflection of people’s dissatisfaction with the rollout of Vermont Health Connect. But that dissatisfaction does not include Act 48, the legislation that established our intent to enact Green Mountain Care, the first universal, publicly financed health care system in the country. On the contrary — the Legislature, the administration, and the advocacy community should feel encouraged, if not compelled to redouble efforts to move forward with Act 48 and Green Mountain Care.
Moving forward with Green Mountain Care is our way and the best way to move beyond Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and actually improve health care. Specifically, implementing Green Mountain Care: a true universal, publicly financed health care system, promises to decouple health care from employment, decrease administrative overhead, lower cost to consumers, improve access to health care, and improve health outcomes.
Main Street Alliance has spent the past four months traveling around the state and speaking one-on-one with hundreds of small, Main Street business owners about some of the issues facing Vermont, including health care. In these conversations, we’ve learned that there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about Vermont’s efforts to reform health care in the context of the existing and federally mandated Affordable Care Act.
We need to make it clear that Green Mountain Care will move us out of Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and into a system that will be much more akin to providing Catamount or Dr. Dynasaur for all Vermonters, that it will take private insurers out of the equation, decouple health care from employment, and be paid for through a progressive tax that will replace premiums.
There’s been a lot of health care reform lately – so much that keeping it all straight is a legitimate challenge. But one thing is clear to us based on hundreds of conversations: proponents of universal, publicly financed health care need to effectively communicate with Vermonters about the difference between the ACA and Green Mountain Care. Most importantly, we need to make it clear that Green Mountain Care will move us out of Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and into a system that will be much more akin to providing Catamount or Dr. Dynasaur for all Vermonters, that it will take private insurers out of the equation, decouple health care from employment, and be paid for through a progressive tax that will replace premiums. Green Mountain Care is a Vermont health care system that will include and cover all Vermonters just because they’re Vermonters.
In our conversations, we’ve found that the majority of small business owners (most of whom are not currently providing health care to their employees), are supportive of the idea of a universal, publicly financed health care system. Of course, they’re eager to see the financing plan and the benefits package, as we all are, to be able to assess the administration’s specific proposal. But the support for the concept – the support to apply for a waiver to the ACA and to move forward with a universal, VERMONT plan that takes private insurers out of the system — is resounding. As one small business owner from Windham County said: “I’d love to see health care come from the state; small businesses can’t afford to offer it.”
Please visit our website to see the list of businesses that have formed a working coalition to support moving forward with universal, publicly financed health care in a responsible way. A full report on Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s 2014 Small Business Policy Project will be released in December.