Creating a single-payer plan

October 07, 2013

The Colchester Sun

In Emerson Lynn’s editorial about payroll taxes for a proposed single-payer health insurance plan in Vermont (“A payroll tax? How far down the road are we?” Sept. 26), he correctly points out that we need a detailed plan to see how such taxes would impact different businesses large and small. This is a complex undertaking and the Governor has stated that his administration is now working on a detailed plan to present to the Legislature in 2015.

Given that such planning involves many moving parts, we certainly would not want a quick tax package to be prepared and presented next week, right? Rather, the Shumlin Administration’s approach of getting all the facts and then creating a viable plan for presentation to the Legislature in 2015 — a plan that considers its impact on different kinds of businesses — is the correct one. Furthermore, let’s keep some of the positives in mind while work on the plan proceeds.

First, let’s remember that taxes for a single-payer system in Vermont will replace and not add to premiums, and thus they will not constitute a hike in total payments for health care.

Further, by replacing private premiums with public financing, we will get much more than we ever could under the current system. Let’s not forget that single-payer means guaranteed health care for all Vermonters regardless of employment status. It means no more worries about going bankrupt due to high out-of-pocket costs that even the insured often face. Single-payer also means greater simplicity for employers, who will no longer have to waste precious time overseeing the complex paperwork of private health care plans, as well as for providers, who will no longer have to bill many different private plans.

Our current system of patchwork coverage and fragmented financing is expensive, and despite this, we still do not have universal access to health care. Single-payer means financing a health care infrastructure in a streamlined way. And it means health care will be there for all of us when we need it.

A single-payer will also give us much better leverage over health care prices, and this can lead to considerable savings over the years to come. Gov. Shumlin is on the right track in his commitment to implementing a publicly funded health care system for all Vermonters by 2017 and in taking the time to come up with a solid financing plan.

Ellen Oxfeld