|And so it shall be.....|
Is the same pattern true for health care policy? Will Vermont’s foray into a “single payer system” fall victim to the same cycle of frothy acceptance followed by bitter disappointment? Those questions were on the Disease Management Care Blog’s mind when it read Amy Wallack’s self-assured two pager New England Journal perspective “Single Payer Ahead – Cost Control and the Evolving Vermont Model.”
As the DMCB understands it, the Swedish Green Mountain People’s Republic has decreed that its health insurance exchange (HIE) will offer a “public option” insurance plan that will be designed and funded to drive other insurers out of the state, including Medicare and the military’s health plan, TriCare. Capitalizing on the widespread frustration with fee-for-service provider reimbursement, Vermont will launch a payment system packed with the latest darlings of health reformists everywhere, including “medical homes,” “bonuses,” “quality metrics,” “pay for performance,” ”global payment” and “bundled payment.” Top this off with an “Green Mountain Care Board” that can set provider fees, deny coverage for unproven “technology” and review competing commercial insurers’ rates, and 650,000 Vermonters will be participating in a cluster of top-of-the-enthusiasm-cycle policy preferences that, until now, liberals and progressives could only fantasize about.
Snarkiness aside, thousands of regular DMCB readers know that every one of the reforms described above have not consistently fared well in the real world. While glossed-over statistics, idealistic generalizations, selective interpretations and a neo-European ideology have convinced much of the political class, the inconvenient truth is that we simply don’t know how this will work out for the patients being cared for by the docs at Vermont’s 14 community hospitals. It also remains to be seen how a government-run insurer will be any more responsive, cheaper or better quality-wise than a similarly sized not-for-profit health plan – outside of its ability to dictate take-it-or-leave-it prices and hide costs by spreading them out over a tax base.
The good news is that any possible damage will be contained to a single state, versus the slow-motion car wreck that could happen under a similarly contrived one-size-fits-all nationwide plan. Which is why, in the end, the DMCB is all for Vermont’s foray, just like it thinks the Massachusetts plan was a good idea. If Vermont’s model works out for its citizen-patients, the DMCB will be the first to congratulate Dr. Wallack and her colleagues on the Governor’s staff for a job well done.
If not, the DMCB will be there to help think – and be simultaneously cautious - about the Next Big Idea.