New figures given on Vt. health care system costs

Gov. Peter Shumlin
Gov. Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER, Vt.: Vermont’s plan for a publicly funded single-payer health care system could cost the state $1.7 billion to $2.1 billion, according to revised estimates that state officials presented to lawmakers.

Those figures fall between earlier estimates. One estimate by the University of Massachusetts on behalf of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration put the cost at about $1.6 billion. A report by Avalere Health on behalf of a group of hospitals, doctors and business interests pegged it to be as much as $2.2 billion, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported.

Deputy Director of Health Reform Michael Costa told lawmakers that the latest estimate is based on assumptions in the University of Massachusetts report but that some issues need more review, which is the reason for the wide range in figures.

Major factors are the costs of implementation and moving to the new system. The UMass report estimated $50 million for implementation and transition, while the new estimate said it could be as high as $150 million.

“Where we have the most uncertainty is the implementation, start up and transition,” Stephen Klein, chief fiscal officer with the Joint Fiscal Office, said. “Does this all just appear in 2017, or is it a multiyear transition?”
The estimates could change based on policy decisions made by legislators, he said.

It’s still unclear if an existing tax on medical providers will continue under the proposed system, he said.
The total cost of the plan is nearly $5.9 billion, according to the latest estimate, and most would be covered by federal funding. -AP

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