VT Gov

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D-VT) (photo: origamidon)

On the monumental issue of how to deal with rising health care costs, there are no two political leaders in America whose actions are more diametrically opposed than Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Ryan wants to privatize Medicare, destroying America’s extremely popular and effective single-payer system for older Americans, while Shumlin is working to expand the benefits of single-payer health insurance to everyone. The national Democratic Party will soon have to decide which of these leaders’ diverging paths they intend to follow.

Ryan’s vision is to save money by destroying Medicare

When faced with the issue of ever-growing government spending on health care, Ryan’s plan, which has now been fully embraced by the national Republican Party, is to simply have the government stop helping the most vulnerable get health care. The Republican plan would simply radically slash spending on Medicaid resulting in states ceasing to provide insurance for the poor, old and highly disabled. It would also privatize Medicare, which would significantly increase the cost while providing seniors with insufficient vouchers.

The Republican plan does nothing to deal with the underlying problems that cause our public and private health care costs to grow rapidly, it would simply shift the burden from the government on to the people who are already struggling.

Shumlin’s vision is to save money by giving everyone the benefits of a Medicare-like system

Shumlin, by putting Vermont on a path toward universal health care, is to doing the exact opposite of Ryan. Instead of ending Medicare, he is trying to expand a program like it to every individual in the state. Not only would this provide everyone with quality health care, but it would also radically reduce overall health care spending. By unifying and standardizing health insurance in the state, his plan will produce significant savings by slashing administrative overhead and waste. It would also prevent the insurance and drug companies from ripping off Vermonters.

The idea that we can use universal single-payer to give most Americans better insurance, and at the same time radically reduce health care spending, isn’t based on some ideological, unproven fantasy like Paul Ryan’s plan. It’s a completely achievable goal proven by many other first-world countries that use single payer to cover everyone for a fraction of what we spend on health care.

Will national Democrats choose to move the country toward embracing Ryan’s “more pain” ideas, or firmly demand the country move toward Shumlin’s proven solutions?

With the deficit talks in full swing, the national Democratic Party will soon face the choice on how to save money–and the choice can’t be more stark. Sadly, the Democrats clear desire to reach a “grand bargain” with Republicans indicates that the country is not going to be moving in the right direction.