Legislative leaders say putting together a plan to finance a single payer health care system during the 2015 session is a very aggressive goal.
But they say it’s also a timeline that’s critical to meet if the state is going to implement a publicly financed system in 2017.
The two key finance committees at the Statehouse, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, have spent a lot of time during the first half of the session examining different aspects of a publicly financed health care system.
Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais, is chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. She says her panel is trying to understand all of the various elements of the current financing system. She also wants to know how much tax money is being used to support state health care programs. She says this review hasn’t been easy.
“The one that really has hit my committee this year is how complicated it is,” said Ancel. “And just understanding how the system works now, and understanding how a shift in that system would lead to greater fairness is a very, very complicated undertaking.”
Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P Chittenden, is chairman of the Senate Finance committee. He’s made this issue a top priority for his panel since January.
“Is 2015 an aggressive timeline to adopt a financing plan? It is an aggressive timeline, but I become more worried about a never ending conversation about health care reform,” said Ashe. “Because not only will the public start to lose faith, the legislators themselves will begin to lose faith so we need to start pulling some levers here or moving in a different direction.”
And Ashe says his concerns about the timing and a possible alternative plan don’t undermine his commitment to a publicly financed system.
“Every time I say something like that advocates on both sides become very worried,” said Ashe. “They think, 'oh there’s an abandonment of the principles of Act 48.' And there is no such abandonment, but we have to make progress otherwise we live in this limbo state forever.”
The Shumlin Administration says it will release a menu of financing options for lawmakers to consider sometime in the next few weeks, but it doesn’t expect any action on a final funding plan until next year.