Gov. Jim Douglas deserves some praise for his decision today to allow Vermont to continue down the path of health care reform. Though he was unwilling to sign S.88, the governor also chose not to block the popular measure from becoming law. Vermonters will be well-served by that decision.
This health care law takes immediate steps to control rising health care costs while charting a course for more ambitious reform in the near future. In this way it manages to be both fiscally prudent and remarkably bold at the same time.
Despite dogged opposition from insurance industry lobbyists and drug manufacturers, legislative leaders in the House and Senate listened carefully to what they were hearing from their constituents. Sen. Doug Racine and Rep. Steve Maier, chairs of their respective health committees, deserve particular recognition for their unwavering commitment to passing legislation this year that will address health care affordability and security for all.
Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin also made clear from the start of the session that no matter what happened with health care reform at the federal level this year, the Vermont legislature would not be content to sit on the sidelines. They made good on their word.
When it comes to the next steps in health care reform, it’s unlikely that what happens in Vermont will stay in Vermont. We’ll be watched very carefully and by other states and by Congress. The expectations will be extremely high for our new governor and the Legislature next year.
Key provisions of the new law will:
Require the design of three options that would each ensure universal access to quality health care. The three designs will be considered by legislators next year and will include a single payer plan and a public option.
Improve the coordination of services for Vermonters with chronic health conditions by expanding the state’s Blueprint for Health and Community Health Systems pilot program.
Institute cost control measures to help keep hospital costs from rising so quickly.
Provide for greater transparency in the distribution of pharmaceutical samples to medical practices across the state.