Will Health Exchange Problems Make Single Payer More Appealing?

Dec 10, 2013

Sen. Bernie Sanders says the frustrations and confusion that many people have experienced with their various health care exchanges creates a great opportunity for backers of a single payer system.

"What we need to do is move toward a simple system, a non bureaucratic system, which says health care is a right." - Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders says the difficult rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the complexity of the new law highlights the need to adopt a streamlined single payer system in the future.

That’s why on Monday, he introduced legislation to phase out the Affordable Care Act in several years and replace it with a publicly financed, state-administered single payer system.

“What we need to do is move toward a simple system, a non-bureaucratic system which says health care is a right,” said Sanders. “It’s not a question of choosing one of 38 different insurance companies.”

Sanders says there’s a little chance that his bill will pass in the foreseeable future but he hopes it starts a national debate over access to affordable health care.

“The way that will we ultimately succeed is when one state, and (I) certainly hope it’s the state of Vermont, shows that you can provide universal care in a cost-effective way,” said Sanders. “And if that works you’re going to have other states saying, hey 'we want to do what Vermont did.'”

Mark Larson is the Commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access. He agrees with Sanders’ assessment and says it is Gov. Peter Shumlin’s goal to implement a single payer system in Vermont in 2017.

“That’s partly why we want to move in the long run to a universal system where the issue would be: are you a Vermonter, and if the answer is 'yes,' than you’re covered,” said Larson.

Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom has a very different point of view.  She thinks moving towards a single payer system will destroy the Vermont economy. Instead, she says more competition in the private insurance market place is the way to make coverage more affordable.

“We could do this with market forces, buying across state lines, bring more insurance companies into the marketplace and driving down costs,” said Johnston. “That’s what consumers want.”

Johnston says she doesn’t feel that there can be a constructive debate over a single payer system until backers of the plan outline the specific taxes that will be used to finance the proposal.