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Vermont governor dumps statewide universal health care law effort

Vermont governor dumps statewide universal health care law effort

Vermont is abandoning efforts to move to a publicly financed health care system to ensure universal coverage, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday.

“I have advocated for such a system for much of my public life, but over the past two weeks it has become clear to me that the risks and economic shocks of moving forward at this time are too great,” Gov. Shumlin, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Vermont officials had been considering such an approach since 2011 when state lawmakers passed legislation calling for the Green Mountain State to move to a health care system that would “ensure universal access to and coverage for high-quality, medically necessary services for all Vermonters.”

The law, though, was short on details. It was left to a five-member board to make decisions on issues such as premium subsidies; benefits that would have to be covered; the role, if any, of employers and insurers; and, above all, financing.

But it turned out that the cost of a publicly financed health care system was, as Gov. Shumlin put it, “enormous” and would require an “11.5% payroll tax on all Vermont businesses and a public premium assessment of up to 9.5% of individual Vermonters' income. These are tax rates that I cannot responsibly support,” he said.

Still even without future legislative changes, Vermont has one of the lowest uninsured rates of any state: 7.2% in 2013, according to the Bureau of the Census. Only Massachusetts, with an uninsured rate of 3.7%, and Hawaii and the District of Columbia, both with uninsured rates of 6.7%, had lower rates.

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