Peter Shumlin has long said that Vermont can’t talk about solving its budget problems without talking about health-care reform. With his budget proposal Tuesday, he has ensured those conversations will be one and the same.
Administration officials cite rapidly rising health-care costs as one of the chief reasons for the $176 million shortfall in next year’s general fund. And they say hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers will have to help close it.
Shumlin’s budget proposal uses new taxes – the administration uses the term “revenue enhancements” – on hospitals, doctors, dentists, nursing homes and private insurers to solve about $36 million of the $176 million problem.
Secretary of Human Services says the emphasis on health care in Shumlin’s budget reflects its impact on general-fund spending.
“It’s an acknowledgment that health-care costs are going up at unsustainable rates,” Racine said. “We cannot continue business as usual in health care, so yes, providers are going to be taking hit in this budget.”
Racine said the proposal will bring providers even closer to the table as the state begins a landmark debate over the merits of a single-payer health-care system.
“We hope the providers taking hits here will see where we’re headed with this, and the possibility to bring costs out of the system and reimburse providers at an acceptable rate,” Racine said. “But we need health-care reform to accomplish that.”