Vermont single-payer healthcare making slow progress

Vermont continues to explore new options for its single-payer system.

Vermonters relish their state's reputation of being just a little different.  Driving down the highway, you won't see any billboards, but you will see plenty of "Keep Vermont Weird" stickers on salt-stained Subaru Foresters. The state has a history of being the first to try new ideas. It was the first state to abolish slavery, and pioneered civil unions ten years ago. Now, the state government wants to add another first for Vermont: single-payer healthcare. 

In 2011, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin passed Act 48, a law that committed the state to building the country's first single-payer system. The goal is to cover all Vermont's 620,000 residents by 2017, and  there is a lot of work left to be done. 

"If Vermont gets single-payer health care right, which I believe we will, other states will follow," Governor  Shumlin explained in a recent interview published on Vox.com. "If we screw it up, it will set back this effort for a long time. So I know we have a tremendous amount of responsibility, not only to Vermonters."

So just what are the advantages of the single-payer system? With the government-fixed prices, patients costs are lowered, and coverage rates go up. In the current system, insurers negotiate with individual hospitals to set prices on different procedures and care, which can make treatment costs vary widely. In the single payer, the government will be responsible for health insurance claims processing, and prices will be standardized throughout the state. 

The cost of the system is till hotly debated. Economists report that Vermont will need an additional $1.6 billion in tax revenue in order to implement the system in 2017. Governor Shumlin hopes to start closing the financial gap soon. 

Hospitals and doctor offices that are in limbo waiting to see the results of Vermont's new plan can recoup on some accounts. Outsourcing medical claims management can help get to some of these claims faster, improving the practice's bottom line.