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May 2011, Week 4

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Single Payer in Vermont - First State to Offer Single Payer

1. Vermont, the Land of Healthy Firsts

by Amy Goodman

TruthDig
May 25, 2011

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/vermont_the_land_of_healthy_firsts_20110524/

Vermont is a land of proud firsts. This small New England
state was the first to join the 13 Colonies. Its
constitution was the first to ban slavery. It was the first
to establish the right to free education for all - public
education.

This week, Vermont will boast another first: the first state
in the nation to offer single-payer health care, which
eliminates the costly insurance companies that many believe
are the root cause of our spiraling health care costs. In a
single-payer system, both private and public health care
providers are allowed to operate, as they always have. But
instead of the patient or the patient's private health
insurance company paying the bill, the state does. It's
basically Medicare for all - just lower the age of
eligibility to the day you 're born. The state, buying these
health care services for the entire population, can
negotiate favorable rates, and can eliminate the massive
overhead that the for-profit insurers impose.

Vermont hired Harvard economist William Hsiao to come up
with three alternatives to the current system. The single-
payer system, Hsiao wrote, "will produce savings of 24.3
percent of total health expenditure between 2015 and 2024."
An analysis by Don McCanne, M.D., of Physicians for a
National Health Program pointed out that "these plans would
cover everyone without any increase in spending since the
single payer efficiencies would be enough to pay for those
currently uninsured or underinsured. So this is the really
good news - single payer works."

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin explained to me his intention to
sign the bill into law: "Here's our challenge. Our premiums
go up 10, 15, 20 percent a year. This is true in the rest of
the country as well. They are killing small business.
They're killing middle class Americans, who have been kicked
in the teeth over the last several years. What our plan will
do is create a single pool, get the insurance company
profits, the pharmaceutical company profits, the other folks
that are mining the system to make a lot of money on the
backs of our illnesses, and ensure that we're using those
dollars to make Vermonters healthy."

Speaking of healthy firsts, Vermont may become the first
state to shutter a nuclear power plant. The Vermont
Legislature is the first to empower itself with the right to
determine its nuclear future, to put environmental policy in
the hands of the people.

Advertisement Another Vermont first was the legalization of
same-sex civil unions. Then the state trumped itself and
became the first legislature in the nation to legalize gay
marriage. After being passed by the Vermont House and
Senate, former Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed the bill. The next
day, April 7, 2009, the House and the Senate overrode the
governor's veto, making the Vermont Freedom to Marry Act the
law of the land.

Vermont has become an incubator for innovative public
policy. Canada's single-payer health care system started as
an experiment in one province, Saskatchewan. It was pushed
through in the early 1960s by Saskatchewan's premier, Tommy
Douglas, considered by many to be the greatest Canadian. It
was so successful, it was rapidly adopted by all of Canada.
(Douglas is the grandfather of actor Kiefer Sutherland.)
Perhaps Vermont's health care law will start a similar,
national transformation.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead famously said: "Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever
has." Just replace "group" with "state," and you've got
Vermont.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

[Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily
international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900
stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking
the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a
New York Times best-seller.]

c 2011 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

==========

2. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin Makes History by Signing Into
Law Single-Payer Health Care

by Zaid Jilani,

Think Progress
May 26, 2011

http://thinkprogress.org/2011/05/26/vermont-governor-single-payer/

Last month, the Vermont Senate passed legislation, approved
earlier by the House, that would establish a single payer
health care system in the state. The legislation would make
Vermont the first state in the nation to, as Gov. Peter
Shumlin (D) said, make health care "a right and not a
privilege."

The governor's office just confirmed for ThinkProgress that
Shumlin signed the legislation into law this morning, making
the state the first in American history to pass legislation
that will establish a single payer health care system to
provide care to all citizens. Now that the law is signed,
Vermont will spend the next four years setting up the system
and preparing it for implementation.

In order to actually enact the system, the state needs a
waiver from the Affordable Care Act health reform law.
Currently, the federal government will start handing out
state waivers in 2017 - three years after Vermont wants to
implement its system. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) has
introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up
to 2014, an idea that President Obama has endorsed.

Update In a statement provided to ThinkProgress, Shumlin
explained that he had an economic and moral imperative to
champion Vermont's new health care law: "This law recognizes
an economic and fiscal imperative - that we must control the
growth in health care costs that are putting families at
economic risk and making it harder for small employers to do
business. We have a moral imperative to fix this problem,
with 47,000 Vermonters uninsured and another 150,000
underinsured and worried about how to afford keeping their
families healthy"

==========

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