Column exaggerates single-payer costs

February 13, 2014

By: Walter Carpenter, Montpelier
Rob Roper’s commentary “The single-payer cost nobody talks about” (Jan. 30) suggests that the universal, publicly-funded health care system Vermont is moving toward will need scores of supplements to work, adding millions more in costs from the need for wrap-around policies. This is not true.


Mr. Roper cites Medicare as an example of these required “wrap-around” policies for single payer. What he leaves out, however, is that this necessity resulted from successive administrations, especially conservative ones, trying to destroy Medicare by privatizing it. Medicare Plan D, with its doughnut hole, is a perfect example of this at work. It deliberately denies the government the power to negotiate pharmaceutical prices, forcing senior citizens into wrap-around policies to cover the hole. Medicare could easily stand on its own without them.

It should also be noted here that nations with publicly-funded universal health systems (Medicare-for-all) pay much less than we do per capita for health care with better results. No one goes bankrupt from medical expenses (or illness), like I nearly did, when under private insurance. These systems also allow for supplemental private insurance policies.

The difference is that their publicly-funded benefits are much more comprehensive than our private insurance plans, or even the Affordable Care Act will be. These extra policies cover the “bells and whistles,” the extra things like cosmetic surgery, for example. One does not need to purchase them. Vermont’s universal system will probably more or less follow this path as well, which is why Dr. Hsiao, Anya Wallack (former chair of the Green Mountain Care Board), and the governor mentioned it.

I agree with Mr. Roper that, “The only way to find out is to ask hard questions and demand clear answers.” I would ask these of Mr. Roper. Does he have a better solution, one which covers all Vermonters universally, without barriers to accessing care like high deductibles, where Vermonters would never again fear losing health insurance, like I once did?