Bennington Banner Editorial: "Vermont's Own"

"Vermont's Own"

Friday March 5, 2010

Vermont supporters of meaningful health care reform have been floating a well-tested format that deserves more than a cursory review this year. Regardless of what happens -- or doesn't happen -- in Washington, they say,
the state would fare better with its own single-payer health care option.

The reason is that Vermonters and Vermont businesses both would benefit from a public system, which would provide security for low- to middle-income residents that they will have at least basic care, while providing relief
for businesses, particularly small companies.

Of course, this would require higher, broad-based taxes to cover the cost, but more than likely those costs would be balanced through an influx of new and imported business ventures and through immigration -- rather than
emigration -- into Vermont.

In other words, if we offer a single-payer public option on health care, they will come.

To drive home one of the advantages, supporters of this idea asked officials at town meetings how much the community potentially might save if the state had a universal health coverage plan in place. The answer in Bennington was
$1.2 million, when Mary Gerisch of the Health Care is a Human Right campaign asked the question, and roughly $140,000 in Shaftsbury, when she later asked the question at that town's floor meeting.

Obviously, businesses that now pay rapidly rising insurance premiums for employees, or can't afford to offer coverage, would benefit if the state directly funded a single-payer system. Large firms as well could benefit by
offering only expanded coverage policies to supplement a basic state plan, thereby paying less for private insurance.

There is the distinct possibility that a federal health care bill, if one ever does pass, will lack a public option. And it probably won't take effect for a few years regardless. In other words, it will only marginally improve
health care options for most Americans and may not do much to control runaway costs for insurance and medical care.

Yet a single-payer system for the state, if kept at a basic care level, might accomplish both those goals, improve the overall health of residents and be a boost to the business sector. It might be the best deal we've seen
since milk in a bottle.

Although single-payer proposals, such as Senate bill S.88 and House bill H.100, are considered a longshot by most -- and might require waivers from the federal government before they could be implemented -- the inaction in
Washington has spurred a ton of enthusiasm for effective, straight-forward reform. This just might be the year to go for it.

These bills and other universal health care plans deserve to be fully debated in the Legislature and around the state. There is no reason to wait any longer for real reform.