Single payer plea

March 12, 2013

Rutland Herald

Your Feb. 25 article (“Self-funded insurance complicates single payer”) states that self-funded insurance plans (covered by the ERISA law) might complicate Vermont’s path to single payer. In fact, as Robin Lunge, director of health care reform for the Shumlin administration, correctly points out in that article, there is no legal barrier to participation of all Vermont employers in a single payer plan. She is not alone in this view. The top ERISA experts in the country have long pointed out that ERISA law does not prevent a state from levying a payroll tax to help finance a state’s health care infrastructure and services. As such a tax would cover health care, it is likely that many employers would choose to forego paying private premiums.

Indeed, large employers are likely to do better paying a payroll tax than the exorbitant premiums they now pay for health care. The latest official report (the University of Massachusetts study) confirms that Vermonters and their employers will pay less in taxes to fund single payer than they currently pay in premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Single payer is a more efficient way to pay for health care. By pooling our health care dollars, and creating one comprehensive plan for all Vermonters, it can eliminate the high administrative costs of multiple private insurance company plans; single payer can also contain exorbitant health care prices through the power of a single purchaser.

If we all get on board, we will be able to reap the benefits of a more sustainable and cost-effective health care system, as well as guaranteed access to all. If we retain our current fragmented financing system, we are unlikely to achieve either these savings or benefits.