Vermont approves single payer health care

The Vermont legislature has passed a bill that will move the state to a universal, publicly funded health care system. The measure is strongly supported by the Governor and he is expected to sign it. Last week the House approved the bill 94-49. Under the terms of the bill, every resident will be covered under the Green Mountain Care health insurance program.

The system outlined under the measure is a single payer program and will go into effect by 2017 if not sooner. According to the bill, the state will first implement a health insurance exchange as mandated by federal health care reform and will then use this exchange as the basis for moving over to a single payer system.

Despite broad based support for the bill in the legislature, the current bill does not address key questions including how the shift to single payer will be paid for. Instead, the state will create a board of appointees tasked with figuring out the specifics of the shift.

The measure requires the state to spend several years on planning, leading critics to say that the bill mandates single payer without actually showing how get there. Parts of the bill aim to control cost increases in medical care in the meantime and ensure that the state meets federal health care reform requirements during the planning stages.