By Emily P. Walker
MedPage Today, May 6, 2011
WASHINGTON — The Vermont legislature has passed a bill to create a publicly funded health care system that aims to provide coverage to every Vermont resident by 2017.
The measure — which was originally touted as a single-payer plan, but has since been renamed a “universal and unified health system” — passed the Vermont House of Representatives on Thursday, after passing the state’s Senate last week. It now goes to Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, who is eager to sign it.
The bill enacts the state’s health insurance exchange, which is mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Vermont envisions that its exchange — which will go into effect starting Jan. 1 2014 — will be called Green Mountain Care and will eventually become a publicly financed plan available to all residents in the state.
However, residents don’t have to enroll in Green Mountain Care (but they do have to have insurance under the ACA). They can keep the insurance they have now, or they can enroll in Green Mountain Care and buy supplemental insurance from private health insurers.
The single-payer advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) has said the plan is not a true single-payer model because it still allows a role for private insurance companies, and patients would continue to face copayments for medical treatments.
“We appreciate the enthusiasm for progressive health reform shown by Gov. Shumlin and the many dedicated single-payer supporters in Vermont,” the PNHP board said in a statement when Shumlin unveiled the legislation. “However, it is important to note that the bill passed by the Vermont House falls well short of the single-payer reform needed to resolve the health care crisis in that state and the nation.”
It’s not yet clear how the bill will be paid for.