Why can’t we have a single payer healthcare system? Vermont is leading the way to help us find out.


Why can’t we have a single payer healthcare system? Vermont is leading the way to help us find out.

The more many of us read about the rollout of Obamacare, and the plans that are available through it, the more you need to wonder if a single payer system could be a better way forward, with lower costs of care. Vermont is apparently creating the nations first single payer health care system. Keep a close eye on this one since it may be a model for a future national system if Obamacare proves too complex to succeed, or does not create the savings promised by its proponents.

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Can Vermont’s Single-Payer System Fix What Ails American Healthcare?

As Obamacare struggles, progressives hope a bold experiment could offer a better model. But first, it has to work.

The Affordable Care Act’s turbulent implementation has ruled the news cycle, but across the country states like Vermont are experimenting with their own plans.

Governor Peter Shumlin signed a revolutionary single-payer plan, Green Mountain Healthcare—the culmination of decades of work by progressive politicians in the state—into law in May 2011. The new system aims to guarantee universal insurance coverage, improve benefits for those who are currently underinsured, include universal dental care and vision care, and increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate to doctors in order to avoid cost-shifting.

In some ways, the system resembles the ACA, but the the most consequential difference is that Vermont’s law will end employer-provided insurance. “God didn’t create the fact that employers are responsible for healthcare for their employees,” says Bernie Sanders, the state’s stalwart socialist senator.

Yet that change has resulted in an echo of the problems Obamacare has faced in remaking the individual insurance market: Plenty of people aren’t happy about giving up existing insurance that they like.

Meanwhile, there are still major question marks about how Vermont will pay for the plan, whether it can achieve the projected savings, and what might happen when an American state tries to import a European-style insurance program. If the ambitious Green Mountain Healthcare is a success, its backers say it will serve as a model for the rest of the nation—especially if the ACA doesn’t achieve full coverage and help bring costs down. Then, they say, statehouses around the nation will look to Montpelier for guidance. But first Vermont has to figure out how the plan is going to work.

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