Sen. Galbraith pushes alternative universal health care plan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sen. Galbraith pushes alternative universal health care plan

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With less than a week left in the scheduled session, a new proposed universal health care plan isn't drawing a lot of attention as most lawmakers are focusing on measures that could pass this year.

But Senator Peter Galbraith (D-Windham County) says he wanted to float the plan so that the conversation begins before the November elections. Many of his peer’s seats sat empty as Sen. Galbraith laid out his new single-payer financing plan. "I hope this is the beginning of starting the conversation," said Galbraith.

Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont) has not released his plan citing delayed implementation of the planned transition to universal health care. But the Senator from Windham claims he has inside information and suggests the Governor is considering a plan involving customer premiums, a 5 percent employer payroll tax, and a 2 percent tax on business revenues.

Galbraith unveiled his own approach to universal care. He suggests creating a Vermont public option a state run and subsidized health plan available through the current online exchange, Vermont Health Connect. "I believe we would end up in the same place at a much lower cost," said Galbraith.

He would accomplish that by eliminating a tax deduction which generally benefits the wealthy and adding a 2.2 percent employer payroll tax. Those on the option plan would pay rates equivalent to a modest plan on the exchange but receive top of the line benefits thanks to the funds raised by the tax changes. Galbraith says that would cost the state $350 million, 83 percent less than the approximately $2 billion price tag for single-payer. He says better rates will draw customers eliminating any need for a mandate. "Under this system nobody is hurt because nobody has to join the system," said Galbraith. It would be much less disruptive, not the least because it builds on what the ACA already provides.

"I just think it's hurried. My sense is the Governor and his administration would have had the conversation now if they were ready," said Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington.) Pearson sits on the House Health Care Committee. He says every idea should be on the table but adds that the state doesn't know enough about the current state of insurance coverage in Vermont to seriously consider a 2017 financing plan. He's not sure it would achieve all that is promised in Act 48. "I'm ready to take a little time to make sure that we do that well," said Pearson.

The Governor says he hasn't seen the plan, but asked if it's better than the previous one. The proposal from Galbraith proposed a tax on employer payroll and employee wages. The bulk of the proposal idled in committee, but the bill did pass both the House and the Senate with a deadline for the Governor to hand over a plan, ready or not.

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