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During the governors’ annual visit to the White House last month, President Obama addressed the health care reform law. Since the law was passed over a year ago, many GOP Governors and other lawmakers have incessantly complained about the reform. Some Republican governors are refusing to implement the new law. Obama issued a challenge to these complainers at their visit to the White House. Obama called the GOP’s bluff. It is easy to criticize. It is much more difficult to offer another solution. And that, in essence, is what Obama has told the Republicans. Any states can offer their own health care solution. As long as the plan covers at least as many as The Affordable Care Act, is the same cost to consumers, and does not increase the federal deficit—have at it.
Over a month later, the only states that have taken up on Obama’s challenge are Democrat-led states. Oregon and Vermont. Vermont is where extraordinary things are happening. Not only does that state get Bernie Sanders as a representative, but now they may have a single payer health care. That is right, single payer. Do not tell Glenn Beck.
Vermont has actually been working on this plan for quite some time. Last year, lawmakers in the state passed a bill to hire a team of consultants, including Harvard School of Public Health Professor William Hsiao, to design a new healthcare system for the Green Mountain State. The team recommended a single-payer system that would ensure coverage for all residents. An independent public body would oversee the system and contract out administration of all claims. Private insurers could compete for this work, as they have done for years to administer the state’s Medicare program. The bill, currently in committee, would take an estimated three to six years to implement.
Just months into Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin‘s first term in office, the single payer healthcare bill has already passed the state House and is waiting on a vote from the State Senate. Shumlin supported a single-payer healthcare system during his campaign, calling Vermont’s current system “broken.”
Dr. Deborah Richter, president of Vermont for Single Payer, which has advocated for a new health system since 2003, says that “on the whole” the group supports Hsiao’s plan. “Estimates are that [Hsiao's system] will not only be able to cover everybody, but for less money,” Richter says. “Vermont is uniquely poised to get this done.”