Health care reform key issue in Democratic Lieutenant Governor race.

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(Host) Health care reform is emerging as a key issue in the Democratic race for Lieutenant Governor.

Windsor County Senator Matt Dunne says the new plan passed by the Legislature this year is a very modest proposal that will do little to hold down health care costs in the future.

Burlington Representative John Tracy, who’s one of the chief architects of the proposal, believes the legislation is an important first step in reforming the state’s health care system.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Lawmakers this past session, with the support of Governor Jim Douglas, passed legislation known as the Catamount Health Plan.

The new law provides uninsured Vermonters with subsidies to help them purchase private health insurance policies. It also reduces premiums for the state’s health care access program and increases Medicaid reimbursements for providers.

The proposal, which goes into effect in about a year, also includes a fee on employers who don’t offer insurance to their employees.

Windsor senator Matt Dunne voted for the bill but he says it will do little in the short term to help lower premiums for Vermonters who do have insurance:

(Dunne) “I certainly would not be hanging up a banner that says “Mission Accomplished” we have a lot more work to do particularly around the containing the costs of health care.”

(Kinzel) Dunne says he wants to see Vermont implement a universal health care program that covers everyone in the state under a single administrative system. Dunne says the proposal could be financed through a payroll deduction fee:

(Dunne) “I have always supported looking at the entire state of Vermont as a single pool of people putting that pool together and doing what many large companies do which is self insure.”

(Kinzel) Burlington Rep. John Tracy readily admits that the Catamount Health plan is not the final solution to Vermont’s health care crisis but he’s proud of the new law:

(Tracy) “We have made significant progress here the most progressive piece of legislation in the country it may not pass certain individual’s litmus test but it was about doing the right thing for Vermonters starting us on the road to health care reform and we’re there.”

Tracy says the legislation calls for a review to determine if the private sector or the government can best achieve universal access at a reasonable cost:

(Tracy) “We are assigned with studying different financing options to include single payer that’s what we’re doing now and our report is due to the Legislature before January of ’07 so we’re working all these things that senator Dunne is bringing up we’re doing it he said read the legislation.”

(Kinzel) Tracy and Dunne will meet in the Democratic primary on Tuesday September 12th. The winner will face incumbent Republican Brian Dubie and Progressive Marvin Malek in the General Election.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel.

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