BENNINGTON -- Dean Corren, of Burlington, will support a single-payer health care system if elected lieutenant governor, saying it will be cheaper for Vermonters than the current system.
Corren is seeking the Progressive and Democratic party nominations for lieutenant governor. With a background in engineering and research science, he served in the Vermont House from 1993 to 2000 and is currently the chief technology officer at Verdant Power Inc., a New York company that makes underwater turbines base of patents that Corren developed.
Prior to that he worked for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who at the time was Vermont's U.S. House representative.
Corren, 59, graduated from Middlebury College and went to work in New York for a number of years, where he also furthered his education.
"I used my physics background to be an electronics engineer, and study dance by night," he said. He later went to New York University Department of Applied Science to study energy and atmospheric science.
"We were among the first entities around the world to put two and two together as far as global warming," he said. "My master's thesis was an energy plan for the U.S. to get us off fossil fuels.
"The main reason I decided to run is that, when I was in the Legislature I worked on a lot of issues, but one of the key issues I worked on was single-payer health care. We drafted a bunch of bills in the ‘90s and did a lot of analyses," he said.
For Corren, the cost of health care is the driving force behind the state's issues, mainly the economy, high property taxes, and the cost of education.
"When I was in the Legislature we were alarmed, there was general alarm among single-payer advocates and people not necessarily single-payer advocates, that we were passing the $1 billion a year point of total spending on health care," he said, adding that Vermonters now spend approximately $5 billion on health care and the number continues to grow.
Corren said the problems Vermont has had with its health care exchange illustrate what is wrong with the multi-payer system. The exchange, called Vermont Health Connect, was mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act, and attempts to make purchasing health care something simple that can be done online. Corren said there is nothing simple about the way health care is purchased now, and while the exchange and a single-payer system are not the same things the problems have given single-payer's opponents ammunition.
He said besides saving as much as $1 billion per year, a single-payer mechanism would give Vermont more control over expanding costs.
"If you're going to pay $2 billion in taxes to offset $2.5 to $3 billion in costs, well I think that's a good idea," he said. "I think we need to be grown-ups and say we're going to do the thing that makes the most sense, is the most efficient, is the most fair, covers the most people for the least amount of money, and if that means calling some of that money we raise taxes instead of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, which I call sickness taxes, then let's do it that way. Lets grow up."
Aside from health care, Corren said he wants to see the state develop a plan on how it will react to climate change. He said it is too late to mitigate some of the changes, so the state needs to think about how it will adapt. Vermont has done this before, he said. Where cows now roam there were once sheep; then the timber industry was big.
A plan needs to be developed to look at how the agriculture industry may change in the coming decades, Corren said.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.