Vermont has been a leader in providing affordable health insurance options to its citizens. From the Doctor Dynosaur program instituted during the Dean administration to the Catamount Health Insurance program that was passed 3 years ago despite Governor Douglas' opposition, we as a state have moved closer to guaranteeing that affordable health insurance is available for all.

Healthcare costs, however, continue to rise and it will be important for us to get a handle on controlling them. Universal healthcare is one way to bring the hidden costs of uninsured emergency room visits into the open. A larger insurance pool will also mean that care can be concentrated on prevention rather than addressing complications due to lack of early treatment. Pharmaceutical costs can be mitigated by working with our neighboring states to negotiate lower drug prices.

Senate Bill 88 Act, which was passed by the Vermont legislature this year and became law over the opposition of Gov. Jim Douglas, has set up a commission to study and propose three alternatives to creating a universal health care system, one of which will be a Single-Payer system.  This commission has already begun its work and is scheduled to report to the legislature in 2011.  Our own options will have to take into consideration the federal legislation that was recently enacted.

After months of debate, compromise, misrepresentation, theatrics, and solid Republican obstructionism, it is not surprising that the resulting Healthcare reform legislation passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama still has many critics. Voices on the right object to any kind of legislation at all while voices on the left object because it doesn't go far enough to provide an alternative to private health insurance and because it still leaves about 15 million Americans without health insurance. 

Vermonters can be proud that our entire Congressional delegation, Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch, voted for the final version of the Affordable Health Care for America: Reconciliation Bill. This new law is a big step forward in the campaign to provide affordable healthcare to every American. If Europe, Latin America and Asia can do it, so can we.

I am looking forward to the report from the Vermont commission on health care reform and feel confident that the Single-payer system will be seen as a viable option.  If it is, I will support it.