Vermont governor signs universal healthcare bill

New law designed to lead the state toward the nation's first single-payer system

Topics: Healthcare Reform,

Vermont governor signs universal healthcare billGov. Peter Shumlin speaks on the steps of the Statehouse prior to signing the health care bill on Thursday, May 26, 2011 in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)(Credit: AP)

Vermont still has “a few challenges” ahead to meet its goal of a universal health care system this decade, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday as he signed into law the bill designed to make the state the nation’s first with fully publicly funded health care.

More than 150 people, including legislators, administration officials, advocates who pushed for the bill and a handful of opponents gathered on the Statehouse steps as storm clouds threatened but gave way to humid sunshine.

“We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long — have a health care system that is the best in the world, that treats health care as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual, isn’t required by an employer — that’s a huge jobs creator,” Shumlin said.

Among Vermont’s challenges: getting waivers from the federal government at a time when the U.S. House has come out strongly against the less ambitious federal health care bill passed last year.

The Vermont law also leaves for future debate whom the state would pay for its publicly financed health care system, what benefits would be covered and a host of other details to be figured out by a new state board in consultation with the Legislature and administration officials.

“This bill has a long, long, long way to go,” said Craig Fuller, managing director of the Employers’ Health Alliance, a Vermont-based group that tracks health reform for businesses.

But that didn’t stop supporters from celebrating Thursday.

“We’re going to hear all kinds of scare stories that this is a thoughtless experiment or that it is too bold,” said Dr. Deb Richter, a longtime advocate of a single-payer health care system. “But I would remind you that every other industrialized country is doing what we are trying to do. And they do it for far less money, they live longer and they get better-quality care.”

Under a the law, a five-member board will be appointed by October to set up Green Mountain Care, as the state system is to be called. Among the board’s tasks will be to set up a payment system under which hospitals and other providers will be paid a set amount of money to provide health care to a set population, as opposed to the current system known as fee for service, which, for instance, pays doctors on a per-visit basis.



“There is ample evidence that we can reduce cost growth without compromising health care quality, but it will take a new approach — we can’t simply cut provider fees,” a statement issued by Shumlin’s office said.

The law also calls on the state to set up a health care exchange — or simplified insurance marketplace — to comply with provisions of last year’s federal law and to serve as a stepping stone to the law’s longer-term goal of achieving a state-run system.

The bill signing drew a range of reactions from industry and advocacy groups.

The liberal blog Firedoglake.com and Physicians for a National Health Plan posted a petition online inviting people to ask the Obama administration to ensure Vermont gets the waivers it needs to implement its single-payer system. Backers say the waivers are crucial to Vermont’s efforts to get the maximum number of residents into the system.

David Oliker, president and CEO of MVP Health Care, one of the major insurers operating in the state, issued a statement saying opponents of the Vermont law continue to have questions and concerns, among them: how it will be paid for, how it will affect Vermont residents who work for out-of-state companies, and how it might affect doctors’ willingness to continue working in the state.

One of those who said she was glad to see the law taking effect was Jennifer Schneider, a 41-year-old Burlington woman who was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer in 2009 and detailed her troubles getting insurance and understanding the coverage she got.

A person in that situation should be able to focus on fighting her illness, not her health insurer, Schneider said. “You shouldn’t have to worry about whether you’re covered,” she said.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>