Vermont Leaders Move Forward on Health Care

For Immediate Release

Senator Bernie Sanders
Contact: 

David Carle (Leahy) 202 224-3693
Michael Briggs (Sanders) 202 224-5141
Paul Heintz (Welch) 202 226-8346
Sue Allen (Shumlin) 802 828-3333

Vermont Leaders Move Forward on Health Care

MONTPELIER, VT - Flanking
Gov. Peter Shumlin at a Statehouse press conference, the Vermont
congressional delegation today announced federal legislation to let
states in 2014 provide better health care at less cost.

A
provision by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the new federal health
care law allows states to propose pilot programs in 2017. Now Vermont's
congressional delegates – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), Sanders, and Rep.
Peter Welch (D) – have drafted a bill
to authorize federal waivers three years sooner. Sanders will introduce
the bill in the Senate for himself and Leahy, and Welch will introduce
the bill in the House.

Sanders
said, “At a time when 50 million Americans lack health insurance and
when the cost of health care continues to soar, it is my strong hope
that Vermont will lead the nation in a new direction through a
Medicare-for-all single-payer approach. The goal is clear: quality,
cost-effective health care for all Vermonters. This is essential not
only for the wellbeing of all Vermonters but for job creation.  We must
do all we can to lower the crushing costs of health care that are now
devastating Vermont businesses and their employees. I look forward to
working with Sen. Leahy and Rep. Welch to get the appropriate waivers
and flexibility for us to go forward toward a single-payer system.”

Welch
said, “When Vermont innovates, the nation often follows our lead.
Providing Vermont and other states with the flexibility to build upon
health care reform will result in better care and greater access at a
lower cost. Allowing us to become a laboratory for innovation and
excellence will help Vermonters, while once again allowing us to lead
the way.”

Leahy
said, “While some in Washington are trying to turn the clock back on
health reform, Vermont instead is moving forward.  This state waiver
bill will give Vermont and other states the choice to go above and
beyond what the federal health care law does by devising their own
reforms.  Vermont has always been a leader in health care quality and
access, and this bill will give our state the flexibility we want to
offer Vermonters the best care and coverage while controlling costs.”

Shumlin said The Affordable Care Act
“will bring Vermont critical money to make our health care system work
better and to cover some of the uninsured.  We want to do it better and
faster than the federal law contemplates. We want to control costs and
cover everyone. I am so pleased that our congressional delegation
supports us in this effort, and I thank them for introducing this
important legislation.  This is just the beginning of this process, and
there are other waivers we will need to get it done.  If we work
together, I am convinced we can persuade the federal government they
should not stand in our way."

This
press conference came one day before a report is to be delivered to the
state Legislature by William Hsiao, the Harvard University economist,
outlining health care options for Vermont that could require a federal
waiver to be implemented.

The
new national health law will provide insurance for 32 million more
Americans and make other significant strides, but Leahy, Sanders and
Welch said Congress and the Obama administration should let states make
additional improvements. 

Under
their bill, states would be able to seek U.S. Health and Human Services
Department approval to implement pilot health care systems beginning in
2014.  To qualify, state plans would have to be at least as comprehensive and affordable as the federal model and cover at least as many people.
States could not offer lower quality or less affordable coverage. A
single-payer system like Vermont is considering or any other state
initiative could not cause the federal government to incur more costs.

The
waiver provision also requires HHS to create a coordinated process so
states in a single application also could seek waivers already available
under Medicare, Medicaid, and the children’s health insurance program. 

A fact sheet on the new “State Leadership in Healthcare Act” is available here.

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