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Single-payer to cost Vt. more than first thought - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Single-payer to cost Vt. more than first thought

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Thursday morning, almost every lawmaker on the Health Care Oversight committee peppered Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson about Vermont's bumpy transition into its health exchange. But earlier, the discussion centered around the state's next planned overhaul: the 2017 move to single-payer health care. A study released by the University of Massachusetts last year estimated the cost to be $1.6 billion.

"What we found, though, were a couple of assumptions that were valid at face point, but if you kind of started looking at them and pulling them apart a little bit it did make you stop and start to question things a little bit," said Eric Hammelman of Avalere Health.

Consultants independently hired by the state's hospitals examined the same question. They told legislators the cost is more likely to fall between $1.9 billion and $2.2 billion.

"Effectively there's two big assumptions there," Hammelman said.

The consultants from Avalere Health say projections for dollars saved by improving claim administration won't reach expectations because the state's providers have already made significant improvement, with a rate far below the national average. They also say the proposed care reimbursement rate may be set too low; raising it will mean higher taxpayer cost.

Vermont Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge quibbles with some of the new report's methodology, but says the higher figure wouldn't put a halt to reform.

"Even using their assumptions, it proves the point that Green Mountain Care is still an improvement over today's system, which we know is broken," Lunge said.

Officials say 3,400 of the 100,000 expected to enter the Vermont's exchange have selected a plan. But bugs are causing many to question if the state can pull off the single-payer experiment in just a few years.

Consultants also warned legislators that the state should expect Vermonters to use more health care if and when single-payer health care becomes a reality. That's because most are expected to purchase silver plans on the exchange, but Green Mountain Care coverage would be more similar to gold and platinum offerings.

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