Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is a Single Payer Health System Feasible in the US? We may soon find out in Vermont

For many of us who were disappointed to see the health care legislation signed at the Federal level a couple of years ago never consider the single payer option we now have a chance to see such a system established in the state of VermontLegislation passed last Spring called Green Mountain Caredecouples health insurance from employment. As reported in the press,

“The legislation sets up a framework for developing an implementation plan for Green Mountain Care, a universal, unified health care system. The bill creates a five-member board that will oversee the development of a benefits package, a reimbursement system for doctors and hospitals, and a financing system to support the universal health care plan. The law also contains provisions for Vermont’s federal insurance exchanges.

The governor described the single-payer system that has yet to be designed as “a huge jobs creator” that is “sustainable, that spends our health care dollars making Vermonters healthy not on insurance company profits and not on waste and inefficiency.”

The governor spelled out a vision in which health insurance coverage would be decoupled from employment and the financial burden now borne by employers would be lifted; in which providers who are having difficulty surviving in the current system are compensated fairly; and in which uninsured and underinsured Vermonters will have access to health care. The bill lays out a timeline for the implementation of the complicated plan over a three-year period. Though the Shumlin administration hopes to launch Green Mountain Care in 2014, it could be 2017 before the system is in place because of certain federal requirements.”

As the country with the highest per capita spending on health care in the world we rank 37 in the world in how our system is rated by the World Health Organization.  Oman, Cyprus, Costa Rica and Chile rank ahead of us.  We hear a great deal of political rhetoric today about the difficulties the United States has competing in the world market but it never seems to be mentioned that US companies have to price in the rising cost of health insurance into its products while our foreign competitors bear none of this burden.  In the last 10 years the employer cost of providing health insurance for its employees has more than doubled.  Consequently many employers have gone to plans with the employees paying more of the cost of health care because of plans with high deductibles.  These deductibles can be from $1,000 to $5,000.  This means that for many families all of their health care costs are out of their pocket before they get any help from their insurance. 
Presidential candidates neglect this issue of great importance to families and the home state of two of the candidates, Texas, has this reported by the Texas Medical Association,

“Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States. More than 5.8 million Texans - including 1.5 million children - lack health insurance. Texas' uninsurance rates, 1.5 to 2 times the national average, create significant problems in the financing and delivery of health care to all Texans. Those who lack insurance coverage typically enjoy far-worse health status than their insured counterparts.”

It just might take the tiny state of Vermont, the home of Sen. Bernie Sanders, to show us something badly needed by families throughout this country.

Video of flooding in Ellicott City shared on Tale of Two Cities

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