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Vermont releases universal health care cost, savings projections

Vermont releases universal health care cost, savings projections

MONTPELIER, Vt.—Adopting a single-payer universal health care system in Vermont would cost $8.2 billion to $9.5 billion a year by 2020, but staying with the current employment-based system would cost even more, according to projections by a state agency.

Without changing to a single-payer system, health care spending in Vermont would top $10 billion by 2020, the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration said Tuesday in its report.

That report was mandated by legislation that Vermont lawmakers passed in May. Their goal is to move the state to a single-payer health care system by 2017.

However, the law lacks details on issues that include how the program will be financed, benefits to be offered, premium subsidies to be provided and the role of employers. Those decisions will be made by the five members of a state board, and some of those decisions then must be ratified by state legislators.

Federal permission needed

Vermont also would need permission from the federal government before moving ahead. The federal health care reform law has a mechanism by which states can seek waivers, which would be available in 2017, to institute reform measures that differ from the federal law.

The biggest savings by moving to a single-payer system identified by the report would be in the area of clinical reforms. Estimates of annual savings in 2020 range from $316 million to as much as $1.2 billion. This would include expanded efforts to ensure that only necessary care is delivered.

In 2009, the most recent year available, more than $4.7 billion was spent in Vermont on health care services, according to the report.

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