by Angela Chagnon
“We gather here today to launch the first single-payer healthcare system in America,” Governor Shumlin announced to a small crowd of supporters before signing H.202 into law on Thursday.
Flanked by single payer advocates Deb Richter, Cassandra Gekas from VPIRG, Julie Lineberger (Board Chair of Vermont Business for Social Responsibility), and members of the legislature, the Governor praised the bill as a “job creator”, remarking that with the healthcare system envisioned in H.202, “we all win, and we all pay”. (See video)
Pat McDonald, Chair of the Vermont Republican Party, sees things differently. She described the bill as a “discussion to go forward” and a “plan to plan”, but said there were many questions left unanswered.
“Interestingly, the answers are coming after the election,” she said, referring to the bill’s requirement that planning reports regarding financing for H.202 be released in January 2013. “They should get the answers before the election.”
McDonald worries that the bill’s uncertainty won’t help to retain doctors and nurses in Vermont, and will in fact prevent healthcare professionals from coming to the state. She cited a conversation she recently had with a physician who voiced concerns about how H.202 would effect his practice.
“This is their job, their avocation, their career,” said McDonald. “They need answers.”
One answer McDonald wants to know is how all Vermonters will be covered by Green Mountain Care. “We’ve got the standard statement ‘coverage for all’,” she said. “But how are we going to do that?
“We can’t be focused on one single approach,” she went on. “We need to know who pays, who’s exempt, how collective bargaining rights are affected.”
Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset), Assistant Minority Leader, thinks that there are answers to the questions being asked. “Evidence of that, I think, is that they’re not going to give the information to the public until after the election, which says that if it’s really as great as they’re saying, they would have all the information out beforehand so they can use that for campaigning.”
McDonald suggested other approaches the Legislature could have taken rather than going down the single-payer path, such as allowing health insurance policies from other states to be marketed in Vermont and tort reform.
“We need a competitive edge to make it work,” she stated. “There’s no question we have to deal with healthcare. A competitive market is better than putting all our eggs into one basket.”
Komline is also concerned about the Legislature’s attempt to fix problems with the healthcare system through more government intervention. “I think politicians getting involved in your healthcare choices and making your healthcare decisions for you should be very alarming for people,” she remarked.
As for H.202 supporters‘ claims that Vermont is “leading the nation” with single-payer, Komline says, “What we’re going to do, is we’re going to lead the nation in losing doctors, creating a doctor shortage, longer wait times, and diminished healthcare. That’s what we’re going to lead the nation in.”