MONTPELIER — While legislative leaders talk about a slow expansion of Catamount Health and Gov. James Douglas eyes reforms to stem jumps in insurance premiums, a wide-reaching proposal for the health care crisis is gaining steam among advocates.There are plenty of quotes from Dr. Deb Richter, a founder of Vermont Health Care for All.
The Vermont Hospital Security Plan would create a new statewide hospital budget to pay for all visits to the 14 nonprofit facilities, essentially creating a single-payer health insurance system for hospital care.
"As a state we need to deal with the rising cost of health care and a big part of that is the cost of hospital care," said Rep. Francis "Topper" McFaun, R-Barre Town, one of the three lead supporters of the bill. "With this proposal, no one would have to worry if they can afford an important trip to the hospital."
The single-payer advocates in Vermont are working on a phased introduction of single-payer that goes about it exactly the opposite way from what a number of legislators are talking about here in Colorado. Here, such a plan would first cover primary care — that's pretty much low-hanging fruit, inexpensive and comparatively easier than taking on the entrenched, for-profit, anti-reform Colorado Hospital Association. In Vermont, all the hospitals are non-profit. Imagine.
Take Back Vermont Healthcare, a new statewide lobbying network of single-payer advocates, intends to apply some pressure on lawmakers to support the Hospital Security Plan. The group will kick off its efforts with a rally on the Statehouse lawn on Jan. 9 at 11 a.m.The Vermont hospitals aren't supportive, however, nor is the legislative Democratic leadership.
"This is a bill that would do something for all Vermonters," said Dr. Deb Richter, a Cambridge physician who founded the Take Back Vermont Healthcare network. "No other bill out there would reduce premiums by 40 percent."
Unfortunately, the name of Dr. Richter's lobbying group, "Take Back Vermont," is distracting people from the point. It's the name of an anti-gay movement that evidently still has signs up.