Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vermont Gov-Elect Shumlin Already Lobbying President Obama On Health Care

Vermont Public Radio News

(Host) Governor-elect Peter Shumlin says he's optimistic that he can persuade the Obama administration to grant Vermont a special waiver to implement a single payer health care system.

Shumlin says he's already raised this issue with the president, and he'll do it again when he visits the White House early next month.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The possibility of Vermont winning a federal waiver to put a single payer health care system in place was a top issue in the gubernatorial campaign.

Republican candidate Brian Dubie said that 2014 is the earliest a waiver could be issued under the new national health care reform law.

But Democrat Peter Shumlin argued that Vermont's congressional delegation could petition the Obama administration to make it happen sooner.

Speaking on VPR's Vermont Edition, Shumlin says he's already spoken to the president about this issue.

(Shumlin) "I had the privilege of talking to the President of the United States earlier today. He called me from Air Force One. A lot of bizarre things have happened to me in the last five days, but that's one of them. You know, you pick up the phone and there's the president at the end of the line. It was a real honor."

(Kinzel) And Shumlin says he doesn't think getting a federal waiver will be the toughest part of implementing a single payer system in Vermont.

(Shumlin) "The waivers is the easy part. The hard part is designing a single payer health care system that works and that delivers quality health care, gets insurers off our providers' backs, has a reimbursement system that makes sense. ... I believe if we design that system, we can sell it."

(Kinzel) The Legislature is expected to receive a special study this winter that will outline several different health care reform plans. One of them will be a single payer approach.

Once that report has been released, Shumlin says he wants to bring together a diverse group of businesspeople, health care providers and consumers to hammer out a workable plan. The governor-elect says it should have 4 specific goals.

(Shumlin) "Delivers quality health care to all Vermonters, where health care is right and not a privilege. Second, is affordable. The current system is going to drown us and will bankrupt us. We can't spend a million dollars more a day than we did the day before. Third, provide outcomes-based medicine so that providers are reimbursed for keeping us healthy, not the number of tests they put us through. And finally, fourth, and perhaps most important, using technology."

(Kinzel) Shumlin admits that making major changes to the state's health care system isn't going to happen overnight. But he's hopeful that significant progress can be made during his first term in office.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier