Vermont governor wants state single-payer system by 2014

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Newly-elected Vermont Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin wants to put a state-based single payer system in place by 2014. In an interview with Democracy Now! Shumlin said that the system may, if enacted, use one insurance company to insure all citizens.

Job-killing legislation? Shumlin said that to the contrary, his state would be a magnet for outside companies if employers would not need to provide insurance to their workers.

Shumlin said that the state would need waivers to re-allocate federal dollars to make the program happen.

“I’ve spoken with the president. We work together with our congressional delegation, with Secretary Sebelius” said Shumlin, “what they’re saying is, ‘As long as you’re not lowering standards,’ which we’re not, ‘we want to work with you. We want the states to be laboratories for change.’”

“All we’re asking is that we are able to pool our federal dollars into our existing system here in Vermont in a uniform system. And I think that will appeal, frankly, to more conservative members of the Republican Congress,” Shumlin said.

“We’re not asking for more federal dollars than any other state. What we are asking is that you let state rights stand up and let us design our own system, using those federal dollars as we see fit. And I think that will appeal to, frankly, some of the Tea Party governors that I have just been elected with.”

Shumlin said that some would be surprised that, as a Democrat, he doesn’t believe employers should have to provide insurance.

To fund the program he suggested that Vermont could implement “a broad-based funding mechanism, as in a payroll tax, other broad-based revenue sources, to replace the current dollars, we will be doing our employers a huge favor,” he said.

“I believe that the states that we currently lose jobs to — frankly, like New Hampshire to our east, who has no income tax — those small businesses will say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. If I can get rid of my biggest rising cost, which is health insurance to my employees, by moving to Vermont, that looks attractive.’ So, I think it’s a jobs creator. We have to do it.”

Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman quoted an article from Corporate Crime Reporter, saying that Vermont’s Blue Cross-Blue Shield lobbyist, which has 75 percent of the state’s insurance business, said “If there’s a single-payer system, we’d like to be the single payer.”

Shumlin responded: “He’s a smart insurance executive, and he’s got it right.”