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Vermont gov wants more time on$1.6B health plan

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2013 at 6:55 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — After two years of pressure to say how it was going to pay for its single-payer health care plan, Gov. Peter Shumlin's administration on Thursday released a new accounting of what Vermont's universal health care system might cost, but left for later how it would be paid for.

Reports released by the governor's office say Vermonters would have to pay $1.6 billion in new taxes to pay for their share of a single-payer system that can't be implemented until 2017. But that would be more than offset by the fact that most individual and employers would no longer be buying private health insurance, a savings of $1.9 billion, the report said.

Exactly what kinds of taxes would provide that $1.6 billion will be decided in a public discussion process whose details are to be announced next month, administration officials said.

A state law passed in 2011 with strong legislative support called for Vermont to move well beyond the federal health overhaul of 2010 to something closer to what Canada has in place: a universal health insurance system in which the government ensures everyone has coverage. Shumlin's administration estimates the total cost of universal health care to be $3.5 billion, with much of that being covered by federal contributions.

A group critical of the state's health care plans, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, said the cost is simply too high.

"$1.6 billion is over two and one half times what Vermonters pay in income taxes, and nearly five times what the state collects in sales and use taxes," the group said.

One section of the law set a deadline of Jan. 15, 2013, for the administration to make a proposal for the legislature providing what the new system would cost and how it would be paid for.

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