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Single Payer Advocates Voice Concerns About Leaked, Unconfirmed Financing Plans

Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
James Haslam, executive director of the Vermont Workers Center, said single payer health care should be paid for with a progressive tax.

Single payer advocates called a news conference Monday to decry what may or may not be some or all of a plan that Gov. Peter Shumlin has said will be released by the end of the month.

The conference came after a VTDigger story last week, citing unnamed sources and with no official response from Gov. Peter Shumlin or his administration, said that in Shumlin’s latest proposal to fund single payer, “employer-funded payroll tax was pegged at 8 percent.”

The Health Care Is a Human Right campaign called for an “equitable” funding system supported by a progressive tax.

“Green Mountain Care must be funded publicly through a tax system,” said James Haslam of the Vermont Workers Center. “Individuals and businesses should contribute according to their ability to pay, in line with the principle of equity. This requires progressive taxes. Green Mountain Care should be funded by a mix of income taxes on earned and unearned income, wealth taxes and a graduated payroll tax for businesses with exemptions for the smallest of businesses.”

Another aspect of the new health care system that members of the Health Care Is a Human right campaign called for is the end of co-pays or any other costs associated with a doctor visit.

“When you ask people to pay at the point of service – and certainly when you’re asking big chunks of money to be paid in forms of so-called cost-sharing – you’re basically asking people who are accessing health care, people who are sick or injured or need health care services, to pay a larger share of the health care system,” Haslam said. “We think we all need the system, we think we should all pay for it in a fair and equitable way.”

The press conference belied high anxiety among single payer advocates who applauded Gov. Peter Shumlin’s signing of Act 48 in 2011, putting Vermont on the path to launch a single payer system in 2017.

Three years and two missed deadlines later, the advocates are still driving for universal health care, but Shumlin’s failure to present a funding plan has drawn criticism from all sides. Haslam seemed to discredit the very information the Monday news conference was based on while at the same time advocating against the proposal.

“We want to say from the outset that this is leaked information that we have no way to know – and we certainly don’t think is actually the proposal that we’re anticipating to see in a couple of weeks,” Haslam said.

Shumlin has already missed two statutory deadlines for revealing his funding plans, and even invoked executive privilege when a lawmaker sought information on the plan through an open records request.

Whether the leaked information in the VTDigger story is correct or not, part of Haslam’s maneuvering Monday will likely serve to remind Shumlin that the Health Care Is a Human Right campaign that drummed up support for Act 48 in 2011 is still here, and they won’t blindly accept whatever the governor puts forward.

“We are anticipating the governor will think hard about making sure that it’s something that gives people like us something worth fighting for,” Haslam said.