A bold alternative to Obamacare

BURLINGTON, Vermont—Al Gobeille is not your garden-variety health advocate. For the past two decades, he and his wife have hawked fried clams, liquor and ice cream on the Lake Champlain waterfront. He’s a big man with an impish grin and a can-do spirit rooted in an earlier career as a military officer. “Running a restaurant is a lot like being an army lieutenant,” he observes as locals queue up for Maple Creemees at the Burlington Bay Market & Café, one of his company’s four venues. “You stay alive by staying alert, and you lead by getting people to believe you care about them.” 

A side of universal coverage with that?

It’s an apt description of the new job Gobeille stumbled into last fall. As the chair of Vermont’s Green Mountain Care Board, this plainspoken entrepreneur is overseeing one of the boldest social experiments in Vermont’s history, or the nation’s for that matter. Under his board’s guidance, the state is creating a health care system that will insure every Vermonter—regardless of income or employment—through a public entity that defines benefits, sets uniform prices for medical services, and covers patients’ bills.

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