Universal Primary Care Proposal Makes Legislative Debut

A tri-partisan group of House lawmakers has introduced a bill that would publicly finance universal access to primary care services in Vermont.

The bill, H.207, would create a dedicated Universal Primary Care Fund within the Treasury to make capitated payments to health care providers that would cover primary care for all Vermont residents.

The legislation’s primary sponsor, Rep. Leigh Dakin, D-Chester, a member of the House Health Care Committee, is a career nurse who has worked in many different settings, from a hospital intensive care unit to an elementary school. The bill also has support from Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, ranking member on the Health Care Committee, and Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester.

Dakin said her experience as a nurse convinced her that primary care is the “heart” of health care. She sees the bill as a way to take an incremental step toward Vermont’s goal of a unified and universal health care system.

The idea for the bill was floated by Deb Richter, a family medicine doctor and longtime advocate for universal health care. Richter said she wanted fill the policy “vacuum” created after Gov. Peter Shumlin decided not to pursue single-payer this year.

“The most important sector in health care is primary care, and it’s also inexpensive. It makes sense because everyone needs it,” Richter said.

Richeter believes a universal primary care system will hold down costs because it will enable patients to better manage chronic conditions and avoid costly hospitalizations.

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