Vermont healthcare plan criticized by allies in the single-payer movement

Shumlin said Vermont was able to get this far along in its reform efforts by focusing on the state's 150,000 underinsured residents who want coverage on which they can depend.

"They're not Democrats, they're not Republicans. They're just scared," Shumlin said. "They know that if they get sick, their goose is cooked."

He said he's asking administration officials and lawmakers for two "critical waivers" that will enable Vermont to become a laboratory for reform.

The first is bipartisan legislation, supported by President Obama, that would allow states to enact their own alternatives to the healthcare reform law starting in 2014. Shumlin also wants the Department of Health and Human Services Department to allow Vermont to pool its share of federal dollars into its single-payer system.