As debate rages on between the merits of one healthcare bill vs. another, and as the Democrats and Republicans trade political barbs as to their true motivation for wanting to pass healthcare reform, perhaps the ideal compromise lies in the idyllic Green Mountains of Vermont.

Vermont seems to have achieved on a state level what appears virtually impossible on a national scale—a compromise between left and right to arrive at workable and beneficial healthcare reform.  Unlike the Massachusetts model featuring a costly mandate for universal insurance coverage paid for by insurers, employers and taxpayers, Vermont focuses on cutting costs and improving care.

The Vermont model admits upfront that covering everyone may be prohibitively costly and impossible to achieve.  Instead, it focuses on lowering the cost of healthcare and making it available to more individuals by keeping people healthier, improving care coordination and record keeping.  Industry commentators have called the state’s system one of the most innovative models of prevention in the nation.

Named The Blueprint For Health, the program aims to cut costs and improve care by preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes and getting better treatment for people who have them.  Investments in health information technology is the second leg of the plan, including computerized medical records which can lead to fewer tests and faster treatment.

Results were achieved through compromise.  The state’s Republican governor, Jim Douglas, worked with a Democratic legislature to pass the plan.  They convinced Vermont insurance companies and hospitals to pay their part.  The federal government gave Vermont flexibility in how to spend Medicaid money.  The only cost to the public is an 80 cents per pack cigarette tax and a $365 per employee penalty for businesses that don’t offer health insurance.

Granted, Vermont’s healthcare plan wouldn’t meet President Obama’s goal of universal coverage.  But the White House thinks enough of the program to have had Vermont Governor Douglas brief members of the administration and Congress about the plan’s merits.

If the only way to pass healthcare reform is to achieve a compromise between political factions and not raising taxes, then Vermont may have the greenest pastures of all.

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