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GOP urges public to seek answers on single-payer

February 27, 2011

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON — Vermont House Republicans said Friday that they are urging people to use next week’s Town Meeting Day as a forum to question a single-payer health care system sought by Gov. Peter Shumlin and other Democrats.

Shumlin, who advocated for a state-level single-payer health care system during last year’s campaign, has followed through after taking office last month. He’s seeking passage of legislation this year that would lay the groundwork for single-payer health care in Vermont. It calls for a five-member board to help implement a system in which the state is the only health provider of health care coverage by 2014.

Shumlin’s plan does not yet specify a funding mechanism. That will be included in a later phase, he said. A payroll tax has been mentioned as a potential primary funding source, however.

Dr. William Hsiao, a Harvard professor and health care expert hired as a consultant by the state, delivered a report to state lawmakers earlier this year detailing where the state would see savings if it implements a single-payer plan.

With Democrats holding large majorities in both the House and Senate Shumlin will likely be able to forge ahead, despite GOP opposition.

Republicans in the House are asking Vermonters to question their lawmakers about Shumlin’s plan when they gather at their respective town meetings, however.

“As we head into the Town Meeting day break next

week, and legislators are home with constituents, we are asking Vermonters to get involved,” House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, said. “There are significant concerns that must be addressed and the debate so far seems to be ignoring the potential consequences.”Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, said Shumlin and legislative Democrats have yet to provide full details about the full impact of a single-payer health care system on the state.

“With one political party occupying the governor’s office and controlling a veto-proof majority in both legislative bodies, the debate up to now has been one-sided,” she said. “Vermonters deserve better.”

Turner and Komline released a series of questions Friday to be asked of lawmakers, including:

  • What will the benefit package look like?
  • How will this reform be financed? Who will pay and how much?
  • Why is the financing proposal being delayed two years?
  • How, exactly, will costs be contained? Will it be health care rationing?
  • What is the economic/cost impact on the average non-union working Vermonter? What is the economic/cost impact on the average union employee?
  • What jobs will be eliminated within the current system? How many new government employees will be required to administer the new system?

Federal health care reform efforts became contentious in the summer of 2009 when members of Congress returned to their districts to hear from voters at “town hall” meetings.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com

 

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