Democrats tout Massachusetts health plan

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(Host) Democratic leaders say a bi-partisan health care reform plan adopted in Massachusetts this week is a good model for the state of Vermont.

However Governor Jim Douglas isn’t very enthusiastic about the proposal.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) There’s great interest in the Massachusetts plan at the Statehouse because it provides universal coverage, requires all companies to make a contribution to the financing of health care and uses the private insurance market to provide additional coverage.

Both Massachusetts and Vermont have a Democratically controlled Legislature and a Republican governor. The health care reform plan was supported by virtually every Massachusetts lawmaker – it’s also strongly supported by Governor Mitt Romney.

The plan requires all individuals to have health insurance – subsidies will be provided for low and middle income workers who can’t get coverage at work.

Companies that don’t offer insurance would have to pay a fee of $295 per employee as their contribution to the health care system.

Senate president pro tem Peter Welch says the Massachusetts approach could work in Vermont:

(Welch) “It’s the only way you’re going to address the cost shift. We’ve all got to be in it together sharing the benefit if access to health care with the responsibility to pay for it. So I think Massachusetts is an inspiring example that can show that the various sectors involved in this debate advocates, government, the employer community can find a path towards universal health care.”

(Kinzel) The Vermont Medical Society, which represents many of the state’s doctors, thinks the individual mandate of the Massachusetts plan makes a lot of sense. Vice President Paul Harrington:

(Harrington) “Until you have everybody in our health care system and they have the means to pay for the health care they receive we’re never going to have a functioning health care system. There’s always going to be cost shifts where the free care is passed on to the employer community.”

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas told reporters that it would be a mistake for Vermont to follow the Massachusetts plan because only time will tell if it’s going to be successful:

(Douglas) “I don’t think we need more taxes more mandates on the public. We need to find ways to make it affordable. I really believe that people will seek insurance coverage if they can afford to pay it. I’m not sure I want to be the first one in the lake.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says the presidential aspirations of Republican governor Mitt Romney may be a key factor in Romney’s decision to back the health care plan in Massachusetts.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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