Wennberg: Migration statistics disprove governor’s claim

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Jeff Wennberg, the executive director of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom.

Gov. Shumlin’s singular focus on education in his inaugural address cited anecdotal comments from high-tech Vermont employers that can’t find the skilled workers they need. He argued that our schools are not preparing enough young Vermonters to qualify for our best
employment opportunities. His prescription was a massive increase in education spending, although, as has been the case with health care reform, budgets and funding sources were essentially ignored.

The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) has produced statistical estimates that directly challenge Shumlin’s claim. According to NCHEMS, between 2005 and 2007, the most recent period available, Vermont suffered an estimated net loss of 704 people between the ages of 22 and 39. Among those with a high school degree and some college the loss was 44 individuals. But within this same age group Vermont suffered a net loss of 1,044 people with associate’s degrees or above. Over the same period Vermont imported a net 498 22- to 39-year-olds with less than a high school diploma.

Because young people tend to require little in the way of health care services and seniors require more, the effect of this rule is to force young healthy folks to pay much more for their insurance so that their elders can pay less.

Think about it: even if Vermont’s schools totally failed to prepare skilled workers (which they don’t), why wouldn’t skilled out-of-staters flock here, especially with national unemployment stuck at elevated levels? And the thousands of young Vermonters who graduate from colleges and universities with the needed skills seek and find opportunities outside Vermont rather than here. Why? Could it be that many of Vermont’s social and tax policies are hostile to productive young individuals and families?

Consider Vermont’s policy to require health insurers to use “community rating,” which prohibits insurers from considering the age of an individual or group when setting premiums. Because young people tend to require little in the way of health care services and seniors require more, the effect of this rule is to force young healthy folks to pay much more for their insurance so that their elders can pay less. According to a 2012 study by GOHealth Insurance.com, a male age 60 will pay nearly 300 percent higher premiums than a 20-year-old, assuming the same coverage. But in Vermont the rates are the same, somewhere in the middle. Not surprisingly, this hidden tax on the young makes Vermont a more costly and therefore less attractive placeto be employed.

Health insurance is one of many Vermont policies that discourage the young from staying or settling here, with one exception. Young families with children who rely on public assistance for health care, housing or basic subsistence would be hard pressed to find a more attractive state.

VTDigger.com reports that the recent upsurge in Developmental Services Program caseloads is likely the result of several factors, but first among them is “refugee caseloads.” Refugee cases are individuals who migrate to Vermont to take advantage of attractive social welfare benefits. In 2011, Vermont ranked third in the nation behind New York and New Mexico in Medicaid enrollment as a share of population. New Hampshire, which has higher incomes and lower poverty, was fourth lowest, at half Vermont’s rate.

If Gov. Shumlin is interested in meeting the demand for skilled workers and making Vermont a more attractive place for educated young people to work and raise families, the evidence suggests the problem is not with our schools but with our priorities.

NCHEMS analysis: http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/?level=nation&mode=data&state=0&submeasure=258

GOHealth Insurance premium rate study: http://www.gohealthinsurance.com/pdf/GoHealthInsurance-Age-Rating-Study.pdf

VTDigger.com story: http://vtdigger.org/2013/01/15/increased-demand-for-developmental-services-prompts-ahs-to-request-money-rescission-power/

Comments

  1. Bob Zeliff :

    Mr. Wennberg is playing with numbers again, working hard to make them align with his preconceived biases. Giving him the benefit of doubt and Assuming his number of college educated/young adults who left the state is correct, there is very little to no correlation to his favorite conclusion it is due to Vermont taxes…which by the way are about average nationally,if you look at them in real terms.

    I believe it is all about jobs. We, vermont, have more than a common number of colleges and universities, teaching a wide variety of specialized skills, language training and weather forecasting come readily to mind. Vermont is a small state, equivalent to a medium sized city on the national scale. We just don’t have enough language or weather forecaster jobs to match our education out put. Is that bad?? Of course not. I’m glad these young people got their skills here, and enjoyed Vermont.

    it is bogus for Mr. Wennberg to whine about taxes as being the cause.

    He also continues to whine about community rating. He feels that older people should pay more healthcare premiums. That is his right but most Vermonters disagree and believe health care costs should be spread more evenly. And remember we all will get old too…so it does evan out in the end.

    I am sure we will see a continued stream complaining consistent with his dogma.

  2. Let’s face it..Jeff Wennberg’sVHCF main and only purpose is to destroy Act48 and real health care reform. A similar comparison would be Mitch McConnell’s main objective which was to make Pres. Obama “a one term President.” To paraphrase Dylan, “you don’t need a weatherman to see which way his political wind blows.”

  3. Walter Carpenter :

    “To paraphrase Dylan, “you don’t need a weatherman to see which way his political wind blows.”

    Agreed.

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