Two years ago I had the pleasure to sit across the table from Steve Trahan and debate policy when we were both candidates for the Vermont House. I have enormous respect for Mr. Trahan, although we disagree on many issues. That’s why I’m willing to answer his call to respond to the apparent mystery about the future of health care financing in Vermont.
I fully support efforts to reign in health care spending and make health services accessible and affordable for every resident of Vermont. The Shumlin administration and the Green Mountain Care board have provided greater transparency and oversight to our hospital budgets and insurance premiums than we have ever had before. In spite of the obvious technological failure of Vermont Health Connect- more Vermonters have coverage now than ever before and we have bent the curve on the total cost of health care spending in Vermont.
So, if single payer health care is next- which has been the centerpiece of the Shumlin platform- how will we pay for it? Republicans like Mr. Trahan and Democrats like me have called for more specifics. It’s frustrating that the Shumlin administration hasn’t been able to say that we’ll replace expensive, unfair premiums with a specific payroll tax or that co-pays for generic prescriptions will be $5 or $25 under new plans. Make no mistake; you and me and every other taxpayer in Vermont are paying too much for health care now and have been for years.
Those of us who are committed to health care reform are concerned more about getting the financing for health care right than making political hay during the election year. I support health care reform efforts that will end the burden of cost shifting on our private employers and move to public financing.
Yes, single payer or something like it will require lots of new tax revenue. However, Democrats like me will only support this new revenue if it replaces the premiums, deductibles and co-pays that are killing Vermont business owners and their employees today. The Shumlin administration has made it clear that they haven’t gotten the mix of revenue and payment right so that it accomplishes these goals- but they’re working on it. That’s more than I can say for the critics of health care reform.
Having a health care financing system that saves us money and preserves our quality of services will require a full public debate over the next few years and beyond. In November I would ask that you look to candidates who are committed to serving the interests of all Vermonters, so that we can all be healthier at a lower cost. That’s what health care reform is about.
Representative Mike McCarthy