By John Flowers
Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday, Dec. 17, put the brakes on the state’s multi-year quest to convert to a universal, single-payer health care system, saying the cost and financing scheme of such a plan would be “detrimental to Vermonters, employers and the state’s economy overall.”
Shumlin made his comments at a news conference on Wednesday, Dec. 17, while unveiling his administration’s health care financing report that is set to be delivered to the Legislature in January. “I have always made clear that I would ask the state to move forward with public financing only when we are ready and when we can be sure that it will promote prosperity for hard-working Vermonters and businesses, and create job growth,” the governor said in a recent press release.
“Pushing for single-payer health care when the time isn’t right and it might hurt our economy, would not be good for Vermont and it would not be good for true health care reform. It could set back for years all of our hard work toward the important goal of universal, publicly-financed health care for all. I am not going undermine the hope of achieving critically important health care reforms for this state by pushing prematurely for single-payer when it is not the right time for Vermont. In my judgment, now is not the right time to ask our Legislature to take the step of passing a financing plan for Green Mountain Care.”
In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Shumlin said he’s committed now to work on controlling the cost of health care for Vermonters. “No system will work until we get the cost under control,” he said. But the governor added that state government should not abandon the effort to reduce health care costs for Vermonters.
“We can and must make progress in 2015 to put in place a better, fairer and less costly health care system, one that in the future supports a transition to Green Mountain Care so that all Vermonters receive affordable, publicly-financed health care,” he said. “In order for us to get there, we need to accelerate the hard work we’ve begun on cost containment and a more rational payment and delivery system.”
To do that, Shumlin said he will ask the Legislature to take several steps this coming session, including enhancing the Green Mountain Care Board’s role as a central regulator of health care with the goal of lowering annual health care spending increases to between three and four percent in the long term, continuing to pursue a path for Vermont to move from a fee-for-service health care system to one that “reimburses providers for quality and outcomes,” and improving the state’s health information technology plan.
Shumlin was clearly moved by the setback to health care reform in Vermont. “It’s heartbreaking for me, it’s probably the biggest disappointment in my political life,” he told the Independent.
John Flowers is a reporter for The Addison Independent a sister paper to The Mountain Times, firstname.lastname@example.org.