The Health Care Reform Commission recommended Monday that the Legislature hire the Harvard economist who helped Taiwan revamp its health-care system for a six-month, $300,000 health research project for Vermont.
The consultant's task: Give lawmakers three roadmaps the state could follow to achieve a more efficient and accessible but less-expensive health-care system. One must be a government-financed system, and another must include a public option for health coverage along with private insurance.
The commission received proposals from three consultants, interviewed representatives of two Monday morning and made a unanimous choice after lunch.
Today the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee is to decide whether it agrees with the commission's choice of William S. Hsiao, professor of economics at the Harvard School of Public Health and his associates, Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Steven Kappel, a health policy analyst who previously worked for the state and for the Legislature.
Details of the Hsiao, Gruber, Kappel proposal — and the rival bids from Lewin Group of Falls Church, Va., and Mathmatica Policy Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. — remain confidential until an agreement is signed.
"All three proposals were good on the analytical front," said Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Maier, D-Middlebury. Still, he and others agreed Hsiao's proposal stood out, and his presentation clinched his selection.
"Dr. Hsiao's proposal offers us the greatest value," said Rep. Mark Larson, D-Burlington.
"His group has a track record all over the work designing health-care systems," said Rep. Francis "Topper" McFaun, R-Barre. "He knows what works."
The designs the winning consultant must deliver by next winter are intended to guide the Legislature's next steps.
Hsiao had spoken to the Legislature's health-care committees last winter about the potential savings and shortcomings of a single-payer system. Many lawmakers came away impressed.
Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, noted some people might suggest the "fix" was in to select Hsiao to do the study. Mullin said he tried hard to find reasons to pick one of the other consultants. In the end, he agreed with the rest of the commission: "This one is the best for Vermont."
FROM: Jim Hester, Director, Health Care Reform Commission
SUBJECT: Selection of Health Care Reform Study Contractor
On June 28, the Health Care Reform Commission voted unanimously to hire the team of William Hsiao, Ph.D, Steven Kappel, and Johnathan Gruber, Ph.D to conduct the health care reform design study as laid out in Act 128 of 2010. On June 29th, the Joint Fiscal Committee voted to approve the recommendation of the Health Care Reform Commission. It is expected that a contract will be signed on or about July 15th.
Comment: Today the Vermont Joint Fiscal Committee gave the final approval for a study of health care reform for the state of Vermont. The study, to be done by William Hsiao, Ph.D, Johnathan Gruber, Ph.D, and Steven Kappel, will look at three models, including a government-financed system. Especially noteworthy is the fact that this study has received the support of Republican legislators. Single payer is on the table!