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Campaign Countdown: Zuckerman and Scott spar on health care reform

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 30, 2020 at 5:14 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Health care is on the minds of voters in 2020 and the two candidates running for Vermont governor have very different views on how to best lower costs and improve service.

Over the last two decades, health care spending in Vermont rose by over 160 percent. “If this was easy, it’d already be done," says Governor Phil Scott, R-Vermont

To control inflating costs, Vermont is taking part in the experimental all-payer model that Scott supports. The new model changes how providers are paid and attempts to focus on preventative care to improve health and bring down costs. Instead of charging for individual procedures, hospitals and providers are paid a flat monthly rate. The reform efforts are overseen by OneCare Vermont, a collection of hospitals and doctors called an Accountable Care Organization.

Several years into the state’s contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, reform efforts are showing cost savings for Medicaid patients, but the state still has a long way to go to bring more providers on board. Scott says the model can work, it just needs time. “I think it’s still viable," he said. "We just need more people to participate in it. More of a holistic approach, a prevention approach to health care instead of fee for service.”

Scott’s Democratic challenger, Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, says reform efforts haven’t paid off. “Maybe in years four or five it will, but we haven’t seen the progress we’d hoped to see at this point,” he said.

Instead, he wants to revisit the Single-Payer model, starting with a universal primary care system. Zuckerman says he’d start by modeling the state’s model off of private businesses that already offer their employees primary care. “Ask them how it’s working and work then with other business owners to say, ‘If we collectively do this to save you money, will you contribute?’" Zuckerman said. "It will your lower premiums and increase your worker output and opportunity.”

Vermont already ditched an attempt to roll out a single-payer system under Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin several years ago after the state realized it would be too expensive.

Scott maintains the single-payer ship has sailed. “We weren’t able to do it, even with the entire administration behind it, a lot of advocates for it and they weren’t able to make it work,” he said.

Ultimately, Zuckerman and Scott say they have the same goals -- improve the cost, quality, and accessibility of health care.

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