Time to Take the Single Payer Marbles Home?

By Rob Roper

Since passage of Act 48, the law that puts Vermont on the path to a state-run, single payer healthcare system in 2017, Governor Peter Shumlin has assured us all that if the new system cannot be shown to save money we will not go forward with it. In his own words, often repeated in various iterations:

We will only go ahead [with Green Mountain Care] if we’re convinced together as a state, that the system is better than what we have, that it costs less, it’s going to help create jobs, and we’ve got the cost containment system right. If we can’t do that, we’ll take our marbles and go home.” – Gov. Peter Shumlin, public health care meeting, Rutland, July 26, 2011.

Well, a recent independent analysis of the financing of Green Mountain Care (GMC) done by the Avalere Health, LLC, a Washington-based analytical group, commissioned by Vermont Partners for Health Care Reform, a diverse collection of healthcare providers and local business groups, came to the conclusion that GMC would require between $1.9 and $2.2 billion in new taxes to implement. A study commissioned by the Administration a year ago and done by the University of Massachusetts calculated that the hypothetical savings in insurance premiums Vermont would enjoy as the result of adopting single payer would be approximately $1.8 billion in 2017.

The Avalere study backs up another independent financial evaluation done by Wendy Wilton, an ongoing project that dates back to 2011. (Wilton is the Treasurer for the City of Rutland, Vermont’s Treasurer of the Year, and a member of the board of directors for the Ethan Allen Institute).

Obviously, eliminating $1.8 billion in health insurance premiums and replacing them with $1.9 to $2.2 billion in taxes does not get the cost containment system right. And, given the disastrous roll out of a website that cost twice as much to build as originally budgeted (not including continuing costs to fix it), is anybody convinced this plan has a realistic chance of working?

Looks like it’s time to take the marbles and go home.

– Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute