Amid the rocky roll-out of Obama's Affordable Care Act this month, a recent Associated Press report turned the spotlight on the state of Vermont's efforts to take healthcare several steps further towards single-payer universal coverage.
By 2017, the small New England state will launch the country's first single-payer plan, designed to recognize healthcare as a right, not a privilege, for all Vermont residents. As AP reports, the plan "combines universal coverage with new cost controls in an effort to move away from a system in which the more procedures doctors and hospitals perform, the more they get paid, to one in which providers have a set budget to care for a set number of patients."
The plan is especially ambitious in the current atmosphere surrounding health care in the United States. Republicans in Congress balk at the federal health overhaul years after it was signed into law. States are still negotiating their terms for implementing it. And some major employers have begun to drastically limit their offerings of employee health insurance, raising questions about the future of the industry altogether.
However, while Vermont's relatively small population makes it easier to execute a single-payer plan compared to larger states, the road to universal healthcare in the state will not be without its obstacles.
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"Implementation of the law now waits for the clearance of a number of crucial hurdles," Ethan Parke at Solutions wrote recently, "among them a federal waiver of requirements in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—and the passage of a financing plan that would raise enough new tax revenue to replace what is currently spent on private health insurance premiums."
The very existence of Obama's private-insurance-industry-based plan could still "derail the Vermont initiative," Parke warns.
Calling for a national single-payer national healthcare program, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently noted that while Obama's Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction—a step Sanders himself voted for—it still falls short of helping millions of people who lack health insurance in the U.S.
As Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! recently wrote, "up to 8 million poor people, mostly African-Americans and single mothers, and mostly in the Deep South," will still be stranded without insurance after all is said and done.
If Vermont's plans are successful, however, none of those uninsured will be in the Green Mountain State—a model many are hoping will one day be applied country-wide.