Forget Obamacare: Vermont Wants To Bring Single Payer To America

Sarah Kliff | Vox | April 9, 2014

..."If Vermont gets single-payer health care right, which I believe we will, other states will follow," Vermont Gov. Shumlin predicted in a recent interview. "If we screw it up, it will set back this effort for a long time. So I know we have a tremendous amount of responsibility, not only to Vermonters."

When Shumlin ran on a single-payer platform in 2010, it was unprecedented. No statewide candidate — not in Vermont, not anywhere — had campaigned on the issue, and with good political reason. Government-run health insurance is divisive. When the country began debating health reform in 2009, polls showed single-payer to be the least popular option.

Shumlin just barely sold Vermont voters on the plan (he beat his Republican opponent by less than one percentage point). Then, he got the Vermont legislature on board, too. On May 26, 2011, Shumlin signed Act 48, a law passed by the Vermont House and Senate that committed the state to building the country’s first single-payer system.

Now comes the big challenge: paying for it. Act 48 required Vermont to create a single-payer system by 2017. But the state hasn’t drafted a bill that spells out how to raise the approximately $2 billion a year Vermont needs to run the system. The state collects only $2.7 billion in tax revenue each year, so an additional $2 billion is a vexingly large sum to scrape together.