Health Care Debate Expected To Draw 'Single Payer' Advocates
01/11/10 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Health care reform will be debated in a public hearing tomorrow night at the Statehouse.
Advocates for a ‘single payer' system are expected to turn out in big numbers - and demand a vote this year.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Senate Health Care chairman Doug Racine is walking on a political tightrope on the issue of health care reform during the 2010 session.
He's one of five candidates seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and health care is a key issue in the campaign.
Backers of a single payer system are pressuring Racine to bring their bill to the Senate floor for a vote in the next few months.
Racine says it's too early to make that kind of commitment. But he is pledging to research how a single payer system would work in Vermont and how it would integrate various groups like Medicaid, Medicare, labor unions and companies that self insure their coverage:
(Racine) "My commitment is to move the conversation forward and to see how they would work most of the discussion around single payer in this building in the last several years is more of a philosophical discussion do you agree with the idea of a single payer system or do you disagree with it but we've never taken the time to sit down and say what does it look like how would it work who would be included can we include everybody can we get the federal waivers how do we pay for it all those questions and my commitment is to try and answer those questions."
(Kinzel) Racine says a new direction is needed because he says it's clear that the state hasn't met its goals with Catamount Health care - that's a program that provides subsidized coverage to uninsured people:
(Racine) "In spite of our best efforts in recent years we are not getting to where we want to be in Vermont where I want us to be in Vermont which is universal coverage with affordable health care we just don't have that and I don't see that under the current system that we have we will get there."
(Kinzel) Racine says there's a lot frustration in Vermont around the issue of health care because too many people are either uninsured or underinsured with huge deductibles:
(Racine) "There's a lot of dissatisfaction with this health care system that's what we're responding to and that's what I'm trying to respond to in working with these hearings and having my committee work on this issue this year there is that dissatisfaction out there let's figure out what our options are of how we could make this system a whole lot better."
(Kinzel) Senator Bernie Sanders, who strongly supports a single payer approach, is scheduled to be the first witness at the hearing. Sanders is expected to explain why he recently voted for a health care reform bill in Congress that doesn't include a public option.
For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.