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Democrat outlines health care plan

By John Curran
Associated Press Writer / August 11, 2010

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COLCHESTER, Vt.—Dr. Carol Gardner is a family practitioner who specializes in preventive medicine. She's the only physician in her Colchester practice. But she has three employees -- two full-time, one part-time -- who deal with insurance company billing and administrative matters.

Someone has to deal with all that paper, she said.

"It is just a nightmare," she said.

Under a plan announced Wednesday by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deb Markowitz, that could change.

Markowitz says that if elected, she would get the state to establish a single form that any insurers doing business in Vermont would have to use, eliminating paperwork that eats up time and money and drives up health care costs for everybody.

"That alone should help bend the cost curve in health care," said Markowitz, one of five Democrats facing off in an Aug. 24 primary election.

The winner will face presumptive Republican nominee Brian Dubie in the Nov. 2 general election to fill the seat of retiring Gov. Jim Douglas, who is not seeking re-election.

Also running are state Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, state Sen. Susan Bartlett, state Sen. Doug Racine and Google executive Matt Dunne.

Markowitz, who favors a single-payer health care system providing universal care, said she would press Vermont's congressional delegation to obtain a federal waiver allowing the state to establish a self-insurance system under which it could bargain with drug manufacturers and health care providers for lower rates.

But since the federal health care reform measure passed by Congress discourages states from enacting their own approaches until 2017, Markowitz said she would in the meantime seek a so-called "public option" allowing health insurance exchanges under which small businesses and individuals could buy health insurance on their own, picking and choosing to find the most affordable one.

She also said she would institute a "cross-border program" to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, for sale to Vermonters, a modern twist on the tactic used in the 1990s by then-U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, who organized trips to Montreal for seniors to buy low-cost prescriptions.

"The only way we're going to be able to bend the cost of health care and the only way we're going to be able to get our economy moving again is if we create a health care system where everybody has access to care, where everybody pays for care and most importantly, where we can control costs," she said.

She said the Obama administration is likely to take a different view of such a program than did the Bush administration, which blocked it.

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