MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Gov. Peter Shumlin told lawmakers Tuesday that efforts to improve health care for Vermonters through the new federal overhaul don't go far enough and he renewed his pledge for the state to implement the nation's first universal health care system by 2017.
During a rare gubernatorial appearance before a joint meeting of the health care committees from the House and Senate on the opening day of the 2014 legislative session, Shumlin said that he was disappointed with the problem-plagued roll-out of the Vermont Health Connect website.
About 54,000 Vermonters are receiving health insurance through the site, with help from a variety of stopgap measures while technical problems are being addressed.
"I don't think we can nibble around the edges to fix our health care system," Shumlin said while taking questions from lawmakers after a 20-minute speech in a room packed with health care reform advocates and critics. "And, frankly, the conversation we are having now is about what nibbling we do around the edges."
He outlined a series of steps his administration will take to correct the problems with Vermont Health Connect, but said those problems would not deter his efforts to go beyond the federal Affordable Care Act and implement the nation's first universal health care system in 2017.
He wants the state to launch of what would be a modified Medicare-for-all that would combine universal coverage with cost controls and, as Shumlin has said in the past, ensure health care is "a right and not a privilege."
"We should look at how regressive and unfair the current system is. And we should embark on the path of designing a new system that is built upon equity, fairness, and common sense."