Vermont pulls plug on single-payer

Earlier this year, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin told Vox that, for better or worse, the hopes of every advocate for single-payer health care rode on his state’s ambitious health care overhaul. Vermont would either pull off a successful transition to single-payer, and a cascade of states would follow, or it would fail, and cement the US’s enormously expensive health care system in place. “If Vermont gets single-payer health care right, which I believe we will, other states will follow,” Shumlin said. “If we screw it up, it will set back this effort for a long time.”

Last week, Shumlin waved the white flag of “We screwed it up.” He ended Vermont’s years-long effort at implementing a single-payer system. And, judging by the reaction of those now cheering the single-payer effort’s demise, it’s likely that the second half of Shumlin’s prediction — a long, cold winter for single-payer advocates — is already setting in.

Vox dove deep yesterday into the the demise of Vermont’s single-payer system. The state had always known that financing a switch to single-payer would be much trickier than simply selling a liberal state legislature on a hyper-liberal health care regime. But it was only weeks ago that the true cost of the proposed single-payer system came into focus. According to Vox, Vermont’s single-payer system would require raising an additional $2.5 billion in revenue; for context, the state currently collects $2.7 billion in taxes overall. Closing the massive gap would have required increasing state payroll taxes by 11.5 percent, and state income taxes by 9 percent.

“You’d think that, if there was any state where this could fly politically, it should have been Vermont,” Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College, told Vox. “But in this case, the price was so big that even a state as solidly blue as Vermont wasn’t able to swallow it.”

Single-payer critics are jumping all over the Vermont effort’s collapse, and the enormous costs it laid bare. A spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business tells Politico, “If cobalt blue Vermont couldn’t find a way to make single-payer happen, then it’s very unlikely that any other state will.” And the Wall Street Journaleditorial page says the state’s reversal should cause a crisis of political faith approaching “Mikhail Gorbachev circa 1991 territory.”

–PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Gov.-elect Charlie Baker names Jim Peyser, a former state education board chairman and strong charter school supporter, to be his secretary of education. Peyser has been running Baker’s transition effort.

Gov. Deval Patrick says if he appoints a replacement after Christmas Eve for Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter, who hasn’t resigned yet to be sworn in as Fall River mayor, it could be overturned by Bakerunder a state law that allows a new governor to rescind appointments made in the last 15 days of his predecessor’s term.

Speaking of last-minute moves by the Patrick team, not so fast with the state transportation department migration toRoxbury, says Baker, who isn’t convinced the plan announced last week by the outgoing administration makes sense.

The incoming Baker administration wants more openness at the MBTA retirement fund.

Attorney General Martha Coakley alleges Aspen Dental engaged in deceptive practices and agrees to a $990,000 settlement, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Our story picks up today with word that Bryon Hefner, partner of presumed incoming state Senate president Stan Rosenberg has quit his PR job at politically connected Regan Communications — and blamed the Globe for driving him out.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

State officials approve a new harbor plan in Gloucester, the Gloucester Times reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes and Michael Curry, president of the Boston NAACP, discuss their reactions onGreater Boston to the killings of two police officers in New York. A Globe editorial decries what it calls divisive comments made on the matter by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The biggest loser of Jeb Bush‘s decision to seriously explore a run for the White House? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to U.S.News & World Report.

Everything you always wanted to know about the power players who break open peanut bags together on shuttle flights between Boston and Washington.

President Obama is trying to repatriate as many GItmo detainees as he can.

The Wall Street Journal highlights the odd-bedfellows relationship between Obama and Sen. Rand Paul.

Incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell tells the New York Times he wants Republicans to start thinking about voting for legislation, not against it.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Market Basket is not extending a 4 percent discount on purchases beyond this year, the Union Leader reports.

EDUCATION

The real higher education sector in Massachusetts: Marijuana U.

A Lincoln-Sudbury High School student wins a small First Amendment victory.

HEALTH CARE

MassPIRG, the consumer advocacy group, is the latest to come out in opposition to Partners HealthCare’s takeover of South Shore Hospital, saying the deal will drive up costs for the disabled, poor, and elderly.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA will resume weekend and holiday commuter rail service on the Greenbush and Old Colony lines beginning this Saturday several years after shutting down the South Shore trains because of budget constraints.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Patrick administration, citing a draft report, says the state and the region need more natural gas pipeline capacity,CommonWealth reports. Trade unions back the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

A new report shows that the state’s protection of wetlands is spotty despite a law that requires developers to replace the fragile ecosystems foot for foot, according to the New England Center for Investigative Journalism.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Not doing him any favors: Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ask a federal judge to keep supporters of the accused Marathon bomber away from the federal courthouse in Boston  because they’re nutty and only hurting his cause. Conspiracy theorists harangued bombing victims outside a recent Tsarnaev court appearance.

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, says Gov.-elect Charlie Baker should respond to the police shootings in New York City with initiatives on race.

A man named John Devine pleads not guilty to killing his girlfriend in Marblehead. The alleged crime came as Devine was awaiting trial on two other incidents, one related to threats against the girlfriend, the Salem News reports.

MEDIA

At least 60 journalists were killed in 2014 and 44 percent of them were targeted for murder, the Associated Pressreports.

Gabriel Snyder lays out his vision for The New Republic.

Meet the Author

Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

Rolling Stone brings in the Columbia Journalism School to review its coverage of the University of Virginia rape case, the Washington Post reports.

The Cape Cod Times laments that journalism is a “perpetual punching bag.”