Brock: The wonderful wizard of health care software

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Randy Brock, a principal at Rockledge Risk Advisors LLC. He is a former Republican candidate for governor, Vermont state auditor and state senator. He is also a certified fraud examiner.

In that timeless classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” hapless young Dorothy from Kansas is swept away in a tornado, lands in the mythical kingdom of Oz, and seeks help from its all-powerful and all-knowing ruler, the Wizard. But once she finds the Wizard, she finds that despite all the smoke and mirrors, behind the curtain he is just a little old con artist, who has no magical powers at all.

That parable also describes what’s happening to modern day Dorothy. But she is from Vermont, not Kansas, and the Wizard‘s conjuring behind the curtain has produced a magical health care exchange, called Vermont Health Connect. It will be the only option that individuals and small business can use to buy health insurance in Vermont, and it’s supposed to go live on Oct. 1.

But despite the multimillion dollar advertising campaign, despite the governor’s promise that everything is working fine and the system is on target, nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact of the matter is this: The system doesn’t work.

It can’t reliably communicate error-free with the federal data hub. It can’t talk to Vermont’s only three insurers, Blue Cross, MVP and Northeast Delta Dental. It can’t talk to the Benaissance system that is supposed to send Vermonters the bills for the insurance products sold on the exchange. On the eve of the day when it is supposed to be on line, it cannot even be tested in real life because key software code has yet to be finalized. Like the Wizard, it is smoke and mirrors, and behind the curtain there is no Wizard – there is only Peter Shumlin.

And in classic Shumlin-speak, despite knowing that the system will not perform as required, the failures are described as being no big deal.

The core of the system is being built by CGI Systems and Technologies of Fairfax, Va., a subsidiary of giant Montreal-based CGI Systems. CGI’s Vermont contract now totals $83.9 million, covering the development effort and subsequent year follow-up and maintenance. CGI has billed Vermont more than $16 million so far this year. Amendments have already added some $41.5 million to the original contract, effectively doubling it.

CGI was not selected as the result of a truly competitive bid process. The original contractor chosen by the state did not work out. Pressed for time to select a replacement, the administration, encouraged by the federal government, settled on picking an experienced vendor that other states had vetted. Thus, Vermont relied on Hawaii’s and Colorado’s selection decisions to guide Vermont’s.

Overall, the Vermont Health Services Enterprise Budget, of which the exchange software development is only a part, will cost tiny Vermont more than $374 million.

To put that number in perspective, that amounts to $1,456 for every household in Vermont. It’s enough money to pay the tuition of 6,800 Vermont students for four years at UVM. It’s enough money to pay all the expenses of the Vermont State Police for five and a half years. And despite the fact that this expenditure will not pay a dime toward any Vermonter’s heath care premiums, Vermont’s health care exchange will be the third most costly in the country.

CGI is interesting in itself. In 2004 it acquired the non-defense government software development business of American Management Systems (AMS), a Fairfax, Va., company. Today, CGI Technologies and Systems, the CGI subsidiary contracted to build Vermont’s health care exchange, is headquartered at the same address where AMS was housed. AMS had a long and checkered history of taking on government contracts and then allegedly failing to deliver on time or on budget. Some of its projects resulted in huge cost overruns. Interestingly, Vermont was one of them, when the company was contracted to build a tax department software system for the state in 1995. By the time the project was completed, more than six years had passed and what started with a budget of $418,500, with the addition of four sole-source contracts, had grown to cost Vermont more than $9.2 million in the end.

Then-State Auditor Elizabeth Ready said about the project in a 2000 report:

The Department of Taxes adaptation of American Management Systems’ (AMS) tax accounting package … for use in Vermont was initially expected to be relatively straightforward and rapid. Tax law changes and development problems complicated the project, and it is still not completed six years after the first contract. To date, it has cost approximately twice the original estimate.

AMS was the subject of litigation in several jurisdictions, ending with a whopping $474.5 million dollar judgment against the firm for botching a Mississippi government contract. It was also the subject of a suit by the Federal Thrift Investment Board and a subsequent U.S. Senate inquiry into four years of delays and cost overruns. That suit was settled for $5 million.

CGI, itself, has not been free from controversy. A damning 2010 report from the Hawaii state auditor condemned the state’s project management for a CGI-developed tax system in which state employees eased project deliverable requirements and removed the state’s ability to hold the vendor accountable for defects and system integration problems. In 2011, a former employee filed a whistleblower suit under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act accusing CGI Federal, a subsidiary of CGI Technologies and Solutions, for $1.4 million in federal court in New York, alleging he was fired because he spoke out against a proposed CGI contracting scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. CGI denies the allegation and the suit is still pending.

Thus far, the Vermont health care exchange curtain has been closed, and Vermonters have not been able to see how badly things are going. On July 26, CGI held a demonstration at the Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) headquarters in Winooski for upwards of a hundred DVHA employees. Reportedly they showed on a projection screen what the system would look like and how it was working. But was the demonstration misleading? It certainly begs the question: How could they have done a July demonstration purporting to show connectivity when they now report that connectivity does not work?

In a second demonstration held on Aug. 29, no attempt was made to demonstrate an actual connection, and the excuse provided delivered one of the best examples of double-talk heard in years:

“As many of you know we have experienced over the last couple of weeks defects in our environment and the environment we are using today is not optimal because we are continuing development in the environment that is optimal. That is my non-technical interpretation of what’s happening. So you will not see everything that has been built for Iteration 2 because some of it is not able to be accessed in this environment. So there are some Vermont customizations, but not all. That doesn’t mean they do not exist. But it’s hard for us to believe they exist if we don’t see them….”

That was what Deputy DVHA Commissioner Lindsay Tucker said, supported by a CGI official in the background. The real reason, of course, is much simpler: Most of the connections did not work, they never had worked, and with some code not even written, they could not possibly have worked.

In the first week of September, CGI briefed state officials that the Oct. 1 go-live date for connecting with the insurers and the payment processor would not be met. But rather than quickly informing the public of that fact, the administration continued telling us that everything was on schedule. Later in the month, the message was spun to indicate that there were a few glitches, additional testing was prudent, but that the project was continuing to go well. Some close to the project recognize that not only will the system not be fully operational on Oct. 1, but there is a real question if the remaining work can even be completed by Nov. 1. The jury is still out on whether the architecture and software products chosen can ever be made to work as intended.

There have been many warnings. Vermont insurers have expressed their growing concerns. For example, in a Sept. 18 letter to DVHA Commissioner Mark Larson, Vermont Blue Cross President Don George said that inadequate time has been allowed for system testing before the now-revised Nov. 1 go-live date. He warned that this may “cause Vermonters to experience enrollment delays, coverage gaps, obstacles to care and create disruptions in the delivery and payment of health care services” required by Jan. 1.

A Sept. 12 Operational Readiness Review, performed by Gartner Inc., a third-party contractor on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, highlighted the things that remain undone. The review concluded that the project “should be considered in RED status due to significant risks to meeting the October 1st deadline for Go-Live.”

What is likely on Oct. 1 is that Vermont will have a pretty website. It will show insurance plan pricing and it will collect applicant information. But only a limited amount of data will be checked electronically for validity, and the information collected will not be passed on to the insurance companies. It will be like filling out a paper application and having someone place the unread application in a filing cabinet. In short, it is form without substance.

None of this should be a surprise. Vermont has a long and unfortunate history of failed software development projects. There was the CGI- predecessor’s Tax Department System, there was the unsuccessful five-year $18 million Motor Vehicle Department system, there was the abandoned Vermont Judiciary system, and these are only some of Vermont’s best-known system development debacles. The state has shown conclusively that managing major information technology projects is not a core competency of Vermont state government.

In 2010, the Douglas administration and the General Assembly worked hard to establish better ways to contract, including the concept of contracting for results. That means being clear on the results that taxpayers should expect from a contract, and then holding contractors accountable for delivering what they promise on time and on budget. The CGI contract acknowledges that failure to meet milestone due dates will be harmful and will cost the state money. For example, if the system cannot truly process insurance applications on Oct. 1, there will be additional costs incurred for collecting, storing, validating and subsequently processing the stored information.

To compensate for these costs, the state and the contractor have agreed upon a formula that automatically calculates the amounts, called “liquidated damages,” the contractor must pay to the state for every day beyond which a milestone is missed. For example, for missing a high priority milestone, CGI would be required to pay the state amounts ranging from $18,750 for every date late from one to three days late, up to $125,000 for every day beyond 14 days late for that milestone.

There are 21 critical milestones, and it appears that only four had been clearly met by mid-August and possibly fewer than half of them by late September. It is likely that the state is due as much as $5.1 million in liquidated damages, the maximum amount which can be collected. Liquidated damage liability is capped at $5.1 million, 10 percent of the $51,024,929 base year contract for development and hosting. Hundreds of thousands in damages should have been accruing every day since at least June, when it was clear that things were going wrong.

But on Aug. 12, the state signed an amended agreement which increased the number of milestones from 19 to 21, but retroactively made many of the milestones less precise and more difficult to measure. For example, one earlier milestone required clearly that end-to-end testing be completed by Sept. 1, 2013. But typical of the revised milestones, one simply required that Iteration 2 testing be complete by Sept. 5, but defined completion to mean that “45% of October 1 scripts pass with fewer than 20 severity 1 defects,” an imprecise definition that would allow a contractor to determine which scripts to count. The revision provided no assurance of what was really important: that the end-to-end testing was complete and that the system in fact worked.

There is also a contract provision that allows the state to go beyond the liquidated damages formula and to seek open-ended damages for failure to meet the Oct. 1 go-live date. That’s not exactly a “nothing-burger,” Gov. Shumlin’s dismissive description of CGI contract delays.

The contract clearly states that CGI will pay the state liquidated damages within 30 days of missing a critical milestone due date. But, curiously, the Shumlin administration seems to have taken no steps to collect the millions of dollars that taxpayers are due. Some might suggest that the Shumlin administration is suffering from a localized version of the Stockholm syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have sympathetic feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. That seems to happen in government information technology projects when a vendor’s failure to deliver on time and on budget as promised is excused by those officials providing oversight, because “we’re all in this together.” Vermont’s embarrassing cascade of troubled systems development projects has also led many to expect that, despite vendors’ promises, systems always will be late and buggy. When officials are heavily invested in demonstrating that their grand projections have been unfailingly correct, these same officials often are extremely reluctant to concede embarrassing failures to the public.

What is clear is that the way Vermont contracts for and oversees major information technology projects is badly broken. A strong, independent and empowered chief information officer, improved depth of project management expertise, more reliance on proven off-the-shelf solutions, more intensive contractor vetting and an insistence that contractors meet their obligations are desperately needed.

It is interesting that CGI, through CGI Federal, is also the contractor for the Federally Facilitated Health Benefit Exchange, and CGI subsidiaries are involved in various roles for at least five other state exchanges. Unlike Vermont, 34 states have chosen to have the federal government provide the exchange at its expense, rather than spending millions of dollars developing their own. CGI’s contract for the Federally Facilitated Exchange amounted to $87.9 million, according to a June report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). That the federal government’s giant health care exchange, covering the majority of states, had a cost estimate almost on par with today’s $83.9 million bill for the miniscule Vermont exchange is a source of continuing wonder.

Just five days before the Oct. 1 start date, according to the Washington Post, the Obama administration announced that online small business enrollment in the federal exchanges also will be delayed. Since now 34 other states will be joining Vermont in missing part of the Oct. 1 deadline, someone will probably need a bigger filing cabinet for all those unread paper applications. How well the rest of the federal project is going will become clearer as it is rolled out. But if the Vermont experience is any guide, there will likely be some really big potholes on the interstate portion of the Yellow Brick Road.

Comments

  1. The editor’s note describing who the author of this commentary is should also have included mention about how the author was the 2012 Republican candidate for Governor as well:
    http://randybrock.com/

    • Carl Werth :

      You really think most people who read vtdigger don’t already know that? Seriously?

      • It should have been included nevertheless. Otherwise why bother mentioning the previous political offices held, which most people who read vtdigger are probably already well aware of as well. By not mentioning his run for Governor in 2012, it makes it appear to be a curious omission, particularly when there are those who would draw certain conclusions over it. That said, my mention of it was offered merely as a point of information, not a statement or anything else either.

        • Carl Werth :

          The article correctly mentions the previous offices Brock held because they were offices he actually was elected to and held. He lost the race for governor and never held that office, so I guess I feel that his failures need not be mentioned as a point of reference. Seems kind of harsh to brand him so. Just my .02, that’s all.

          • Mentioning the author’s run as a candidate for Governor is simply being factual and nothing more.

            As far as the rest you raise in terms of the perception that it represents a failure on the part of the former candidate, those are apparently your perceptions and words, not mine.

        • Thank you to vtdigger for updating the editor’s note to include mention of the author having been a candidate for Governor.

          • Carl Werth :

            Forgive me, where did I say they were your words or perceptions?

            I hope you didn’t think I was attacking your opinion, I was just giving mine.

  2. Charlotte McGray :

    Excellent article and reporting. Keep up the good work!

  3. Dave Bellini :

    Obama promised everyone that they could keep their current insurance. That very important assurance was taken away by force from Vermonters. If our leaders left that guarantee in place, people wouldn’t be forced into this house of cards.
    .
    Read the front page of today’s local newspaper and learn that many low and middle income folks will be forced to buy insurance with huge out of pocket costs. Folks on Catamount and VHAP will really get screwed. They don’t have enough cash to pay the out of pocket costs. So, our leaders are moving a population of people with good health insurance and UNDER-INSURING THEM.
    .
    In 2017, if Vermont really does create some universal care pool, it will not be what the true believers think it will be. There will be expensive out of pocket costs for Vermonters. There will be co-pays. There will be deductibles. I fear there will also be premiums. Your leaders have no plan to create a system where people walk in and get care and all is covered by taxes. Look at all the deception and withholding of information so far. Don’t fall for a con job.

    • Wendy Wilton :

      Dave, it may be too late. Vermonters fell for the ‘con job’ last year in the election of Governor Shumlin and most of the legislature (who have merely passed the buck on health care to the governor). No one wants to answer how it will work, what it will cost and who will pay…and Green Mountain Care single payer plan–at a $6 billion price tag, so far–is only 3 years away.

  4. Keith Stern :

    I wonder how much GCI donated to the Democratic party. Hmmmm

  5. rosemarie jackowski :

    How could this happen? We have a $200 per hour no-bid ‘expert’ to make sure everything is going exactly as planned.

    Seriously, can things get any worse? Let’s start setting up health/dental clinics around the state. We can fund them with the money that we save when the experts are fired.

  6. Linda Quackenbush :

    Bravo Randy! A true masterpiece of the “truth” is so refreshing but at the same time quite frightening. Vermont “cannot” sustain the debt of Green Mountain Care and we could become another Detroit,MI. Wow…Scary stuff

  7. Ralph Colin :

    Meanwhile, the governor travels to China, takes multiple vacations and personal days off, cuts ribbons at superstore openings, pats children on the head and tells us everything is just fine. And that problems getting the Exchange to the starting post on time after costing over $400 million to develop is a “nothing-burger!” One really has to wonder in what macrocosm he is living and why he always competes in the International Greatest Liars Competition each year.

  8. Scott Garren :

    Brock’s bio at the head is interesting for what’s not there. Maybe the fact that he was the losing Republican opponent to Gov. Shumlin in the last election might color his view of the issue? The Republicans are not only predicting failure but doing everything they can to ensure it.

    • What are they “doing” to ensure failure, Scott? What actual action has anyone taken — repealed part of the law? Cut off funding? Kidnapped the Green Mountain Care Board? The fact is that though people may speak out against this law and point out its shortcomings, nothing has actually been done to hinder it in any way. It’s had clear sailing and supermajority backing all the way, and, despite that, it’s failing all on its own.

      • Todd Taylor :

        Stellar response. It must be frightening for those involved in creating and backing this mess when they realize there’s nobody they can blame. They own it completely.

      • Joy Karnes Limoge :

        Thank you Rob! Incredibly well stated and Todd I couldn’t agree more!

    • Patricia Crocker :

      Seems to me that Mr. Brock is reporting facts. You are entitled to your opinion of Mr. Brock, but you are not entitled to your own facts. Facts are indisputable.

    • Patricia Crocker :

      And one more thing…an opinion of my own. Who would you trust to speak truth to power? A man who takes advantage of a neighbor with a mental disability to reap financial benefit, or a man who worked his way up from very meager beginnings, served in the military, commuted back and forth every day for 6 years to Boston and stayed in Vermont because he loved this Green Mountain State, a man who adopted and gave a child a loving home? It is pretty clear to me who has the most veracity, and it sure isn’t Shumlin. I would trust Mr. Brock’s analysis any day over the current Governor’s, that’s for sure!

    • Craig Powers :

      Scott,

      At this a point the whole Exchange is a failure and it was mostly implemented by the Democrats. Nuff said.

  9. Great article Randy, As usual right on point. Now if only the media would report on this and educate the people of VT.
    Keep up the good work and I hope you will run again you have a lot of support.
    Mark Donka

  10. Kay Trudell :

    Obamacare and Shumlincare — socialist scams, both of them.

    • Paula Schramm :

      Obamacare is hardly socialist ! It was based on Romney’s Massachusetts plan in ( futile) hopes that Republicans would be able to support an effort to make health care accessible to all Americans. While it’s important to find and discuss the faults in how this law is being implemented here, it would be also helpful to keep in mind the greater challenge: how do we change the reality that an estimated 45,000 Americans die every year because they don’t have access to health care ? To say that Republicans haven’t done everything in their power to thwart this effort to get health care to people is to have blinders on. They are about to shut the government down over it ! And I’ve been following the propaganda efforts of the VHCF here in Vermont to see the same thing : tear down the work to change things for the better, but don’t offer any real alternatives.

      • Bob Stannard :

        Actually the underpinnings of the law originated from the Heritage Foundation; that bastion of liberalism

      • patricia crocker :

        Paula: VT is the only state limiting the exchange to only two providers. I’m not a fan of Romney Care, but even Romney Care had many more choices than Green Mountain Care.

        • Paula Schramm :

          Yes, but Romney care had no future plan to quickly move into a universal care-single payer system to make sure there is equitable accessible health CARE ( not “insurance” ) for all people.
          Please don’t conveniently loose sight of the law passed by our legislature…that’s our goal – the exchanges are what we have to do only because of the A.C.A. and they are not the final goal for Vermont at all.

  11. Carl Marcinkowski :

    It truly is a wonder that our state governor went with this project. I couldn’t understand how they could do this on day one. Mr Brock shares my inquisitiveness. How can this small state trust such a costly project to a questionable and historically failing contractor/technology sector? It boggles my mind.

  12. Bob Stannard :

    Anyone want to bet that Mr. Brock is running for governor again? This sounds like his campaign speach; and it ties in well with the terrorist Tea Party crowd that would shut down our government to ensure that all people in this country aren’t insured.

    Yes there may be some glitches along the way, but remember that the goal is to allow all people access to healthcare; not just the 1%.

    Maybe in his next piece Mr. Brock will be able to point out the cost overruns of decommissioning the VY plant, which has about half the money it needs to do the job. To his credit, then Sen. Brock voted to not allow the plant to continue to operate. When he ran unsuccessfully for governor he recanted.

  13. MJ FARMER :

    After reading the BFP yesterday I am still confused about the subsidies for Vermont Heath Connect aka Green Mountain Health Care aka Obamacare. The BFP says the subsidies will be given on the 2014 tax year when you file taxes in 2015. So where will I get the $ from in 2014? Also, once I get the $ in 2015, what’s to prevent me from spending it on something else?

    • Jon Corrigan :

      It’ll be your money to spend on anything you desire, as long as you keep sending in the premiums on your choice of health plans (not much choice there).

  14. Annette Smith :

    I decided to tiptoe into the health exchange’s website yesterday. First I had to figure out that the non-profit through which I get insurance is in the “Small Business” category, as there was no category for non-profits. Then instead of asking me which plan I wanted, it asked me to type in the premium to pay, so I entered the current BCBS payment.

    That took me to their Silver plan, and the rate is substantially higher than what I am currently paying. There seemed to be no way to access the Bronze plan which is probably equivalent to my current coverage.

    So strike one for trying to get directly to the plan I want. And I sure hope that the rates I saw aren’t what I am going to have to pay, because it’s ridiculously high for a ridiculously small amount of coverage.

    • Craig Powers :

      Welcome to “reform” Annette!

  15. Ralph Colin :

    Liike so many others on the far left, Mr. Stannard, refuses to accept the more and more obvious (to the rest of us) failures of the health care plans which his buddy, the governer, has concocted for Vermont. Instead of acknowledging the sinkhole of an Exchange architecture which Shummy has designed for his constituents, Stannard, always prepared to shore up the
    failures of his friend, resorts to using a tactic so commonly employed by his ilk: he
    changes the subject and attacks the critics.
    Perhaps that makes Mr. Stannard and the Guv feel better, but it does nothing to solve the problems which they have created for most everyone else. On the other hand, do we really expect them to
    accept responsibility for their politically inspired debacles?

    • Bob Stannard :

      I, and many Vermonters, commend the governor for trying to fix the problem of affordable healthcare for all. Republican one-per centers like my friend, Mr. Colin, believe that there’s more to be gained, politically, by failure. It’s why the Tea Partiers are willing to shut the fed Gov’t down and why folks like Mr. Brock & Colin want to see Gov. Shumlin fail in his efforts.

      Mr. Colin can easily afford healthcare. Most others can’t. Too bad about them

      • Bob, no one wants the Governor to fail as you say above. I think everyone on the planet knows we have a terrible problem with the cost of health care. So tell us again, how the expenditure of nearly a half billion dollars of hard earned tax payer money on this monstrosity fixes the health care affordability problem.

        • Bob Stannard :

          Please Peter, this is about the most disingenuous thing you’ve ever said.

        • mike oltedal :

          I fear that this will turn into political bashing between partys and nothing will ever be fixed.
          Things were broken, still are Health care is broken but if this is the all sure way to fix things I fear we are all in trouble. The mony spent thus far in Vermont on this project and all the other projects mentioned by Randy would have purchsed Health care for quite a # of people for quite a long time no matter what party you belong to.
          I have to ask the political pasrtys to stop the dog and pony show
          and work together to fix what is broke because right now your dog and pony shows are costing more money and putting the peoples health care at risk and we did not vote anyone in to put us at risk -

      • patricia crocker :

        This is actually going to make many more people uninsured because they will opt out and pay the fine. And then when single ayer kicks in, there is going to be a mass exodus of people who are able to leave the state. There will only be two kinds of people in this state, the very wealthy, well politically connected, and the very sick and very poor. he middle class will be non-existant.

    • Bob Orleck :

      While the article written by Mr. Brock is very long and most people do not have that long of an attention span, I would suggest that you read it. Read it all! It gets better and more revealing the more you read.

      If you are a prosecutor you need to be considering an investigation. The evidence is there and is just begging some lawman with backbone to do something about it. People should be going to jail for this and other things happening in high places in our state. No one should be above the law!

      If you are a Democrat, read it and realize that these are not your Dad’s Democrats of many years ago. There is pocket padding here and there is little or no caring about the people they “serve”. It is about power and greed and we need to clean house. There needs to be at a minimum a divided legislature where issues will be properly vetted. A blank check is no way to run a government that is controlled by obvious liars, land grabbers and thieves.

      Take the time and read Mr. Brock’s piece. It is very telling and truthful. If the Shumlin thugs can offer facts to counter it, I would think they would, but they can’t so of course they won’t! Instead all we get are the pathetic, over-used, meaningless and disjointed ramblings of the likes of the programmed Bob Stannard. But then Bob, keep it up. You are beginning to be the best gift the opposition has to build a coalition of well-meaning conservatives and liberals to get rid of these tramps and thieves.

      • patricia crocker :

        What do you expect from a man who takes financial advantage of a mentally disabled neighbor? With neighbors like that, who needs enemies? He cares more about himself than the rest of Vermont….

        • Bob Stannard :

          Lest you forget (or just prefer to perpetuate the lie) it was the neighbor who first approached the governor for help; not the other way around.

  16. Bob Frenier :

    Let’s start calling Gov. Shumlin’s health care system “Titanicare.” It’s huge; it’s the latest glitzy thing; it’s got an overconfident captain who ignored the known and predictable dangers ahead; there are only a few lifeboats; and it’s going to sink with tremendous losses.

    • Heidi Nikolaidis :

      Right on! What a great idea. Will borrow it and share with others :)

    • patricia crocker :

      God metaphor Bob. It describes Shummycare to a tee!

      • patricia crocker :

        Good metaphor that is, but maybe inspired by God? Oops, I forgot you can’t mention God…you get attacked if you do.

        • Paula Schramm :

          I refuse to accept that Christians who talk about God are some kind of victimized and muzzled group. Please give me a ( very large) break.

        • Bob Orleck :

          quote: “I refuse to accept that Christians who talk about God are some kind of victimized and muzzled group. Please give me a ( very large) break.”

          I can give you a break and I can also give you an example from a vtdigger post where it happened to me. A very nasty response to a Christian point of view I made. With the history of censoring I have seen from vtdigger it should have been censored but was not. So give us a break as well! We have thought based on a Christian world view and we should be allowed to express it would you not agree?

          • Eric Mills :

            Yeah, Chrisitians are an “oppressed minority” now.

            Keep dreaming.

            Someone allegedly made a nasty comment to you and this somehow proves “Christians who talk about God are some kind of victimized and muzzled group”.

            Show us how your pro-Chrisitan speech was muzzled, or how someone saying they disagree is a form of victimization.

            Say what you like, but stop pretending you are victims because people are now willing to say they disagree with your views.

  17. Carol Frenier :

    Reading Randy Brock’s fine article leaves me again with deep regret that he is not now governor. What a difference there would be with him at the helm!

    • Patricia Jones :

      Your article is a true Master piece Mr. Brock.
      I wonder how long and how many years it is going to take for Vermonters to realize that having the government involved in the insurance business or conducting our private lives in any way is truly not the Freedom that we all strive for everyday. The cost and outcome of this Peter Shumlin business adventure is only another huge downfall
      for mankind.

  18. rosemarie jackowski :

    BREAKING NEWS: I have just left a State Office where I was told that the VT system has collapsed. Computers and workers cannot communicate with each other. They say it will be worse tomorrow. No one will predict what is going to happen on January 1.

    This has nothing to do with the government shut-down. The root of the problem is in the complexity of layers of rules and regulations. Red tape and loop holes have brought down the system.

    Crony Capitalism, $200 per hour no-bid contracts for ‘experts’, and political patronage appointments got us here.

    This cannot be fixed with duct tape. We need someone to come and start from scratch and design a simple, efficient, compassionate system. Other countries have done it. If Washington can’t do it, set up a Vermont system. Forget the feds.

    Many Vermonters have suggestions, but there is no one to give the suggestions to. The legislators blame the bureaucrats. The bureaucrats blame the lawyers. In the meantime, cause of death – “Red tape”‘.

    • Bob Orleck :

      Rosemarie:

      Let’s not start from scratch, scratch.

      Lets start with the United States Constitution and lets make one rule that it means what it says, not what a bunch of life appointed old men and women says it says.

      I know someone will criticize that you need checks and balances. Well lets put term limits on all of the buggers from executive, legislative and judiciary. There should be no career government officials, AT ALL! They should all give allegiance to the flag and our Constitution and take a lie detector test to make sure they are telling the truth!

      Their wages should be no more than the average American makes. They should be prohibited from becoming a lobbyist like Bob Stannard did. Their needs to be an insider dealing law that would prohibit any and all gains after they retire from information they acquired while in their office.

      On a serious note. It is pathetic how these tramps and thieves are using tax payer money to do their own personal greedy business to maintain their strangle power hold on our lives. We need to clean house and the sooner the better and go back to the basics. The Constitution did not give these spending powers. They were stolen from the people.

      • Todd Taylor :

        I keep hoping tar, feathers and railroad ties come back into vogue.

      • patricia crocker :

        Amen to that.

      • mike oltedal :

        Yep – they needed health care- we needed affordable health care – who ended up with what Do they have to follow the same thing they say is good for us.

    • Jon Corrigan :

      It’s unfortunate we have to keep reinventing the wheel; your statement about ‘crony capitalism and political appointments’ is right on the money. Multiply this boondoggle in tiny Vermont by about 500 and that will be the sum total of the amount wasted in the other 49 states. I’m sure the Federal Reserve will warm up the printing presses to further devalue the dollar in short order, and we suckers working our butts off to make ends meet will be left holding yet another bag of empty promises.

  19. rosemarie jackowski :

    This is how bad the system is, and yes, people die in Vermont because of the ‘system’.
    http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/09/your-money-or-your-life/

    • Paula Schramm :

      “This is how bad the system is, and yes, people die in Vermont because of the ‘system’.”

      Thanks, Rosemarie – we need to keep the big picture firmly in sight.
      I know quite a few Vermonters who have no insurance, though they work hard, and some of them have huge medical bills because of sudden illness. Others have not gotten the health care they needed and are in bad shape now. The technical glitches are an outrage & I have heard of some simpler systems that aren’t cutting edge but have worked fine. Let’s solve this & get on with building what we need, access to healthcare for everyone, beyond the A.C.A. Exchanges. Those who criticize without intending to offer a way to create health care for all, need not apply.

  20. robert bristow-johnson :

    hey Randy,

    it ain’t Wizard of Oz, it’s Green Eggs and Ham. ask your buddy, Ted. oh wait, it’s really about Two and a Half Men or whatever drivel most recently comes out of the mouth of Ayn Rand.

    remember the final lesson in Green Eggs and Ham, mr Ran-i -am.

    • Todd Taylor :

      A person’s a person, no matter how small – right robbie?

  21. Don Peterson :

    I think perhaps the saddest thing is that moderate Republicans have abandoned all pretense of serving the middle class, and in the resulting vacuum, we get a government that calls an extra 40 million dollars over budget a “nothingburger”.

  22. nick nikolaidis :

    The dedicated career politicians,dont give a penny for Vermonters.April 29th the governor was asked if he was going to veto any of these bad tax increase proposals,that our dear legislatots were proposing.He couldn’t answer because he couldn’t tell at the time which way the wind was blowing.
    He will find somebody to blame when all thing begin to go wrong

  23. David Dempsey :

    I guess it doesn’t really matter now, but after learning more and more about the exchange it made less and less sense to me. Why did the legislature pass a law to set up our own exchange instead of using the federal health exchange. The same law also made it mandatory for all businesses and individuals to buy their health insurance through the exchange, except for businesses that are self insured. After a phase in period, all businesses over 50 employees will also be madated to buy through the health exchange. The Obamacare law did not make the federal exchange mandatory, businesses and individuals could keep their current insurance or buy elswhere if they wanted to. Last year I contacted my three legislators, all democrats, to see why they voted for a law that made the exchange mandatory. They all said that they followed party lines. None of the three had any idea what I was talking about when I said the exchange was mandatory. One even said that almost all of the emails she had received were in favor of single payer. I replied that the exchange had nothing to do with single payer, but based on her response I think she still thought they were connected. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for a representative to read a bill before they vote for or against it. Now we are spending our federal tax dollars, $84 million, to set up Vermont’s exchange, to the same contractor that the federal government is paying $88 million for similar software for the federal exchange that any state can use. $88 million spent to for an exchange that will take care of over 30 states, $84 for an exchange for one state. No wonder we have a huge deficit.

  24. mike oltedal :

    Please take all the money spent on all the FAILED projects in VT over the last 20 plus years and post a total.
    Then take all the money spent on all study groups, experts, and the so called technoligy for all those projects and post that total.
    Then calculate how much insurance that would buy us

  25. Ralph Colin :

    Here we are two days after Randy’s superb commentary was posted on the shortcomings and design failures of the governor’s health care initiative and his insistance that it be engineered here in Vermont rather than by the Federal government. With almost unanimous praise from VTDigger’s readers, there is virtually only one standout message of counterpoint to the far more objective views by others of Randy’s analaysis: Mr. Stannard. For those who offer a point of view with which Stannatd disagrees, his modus operandi is to slash and burn.

    He characterises me as a “one-percenter” who cares not about others and prefers that the governor’s health care plan fails rather than meets with success.
    What my friend, Rand Brock, and many others point out and with what I agree, is that the governor’s plan was designed to fail and that HE KNEW IT WHEN HE PUT IT ON THE TABLE! His purpose in proposing it in the first place was purely political, something that many of us recognized from the get-go. It has been a sham all along. The real tragedy is that he will have let down so many people who desperately want and need a viable health care program by making it so complicated and expensive that it probably can’t work.

    For that, Stannard castigates me by suggesting that I don’t care about other folks. Perhaps he is unaware of how many of his friends and neighbors I have quietly assisted over the years when they needed help in meeting some of their medical expenses. And he obviously forgets that I paid for his then fifteen-year old son to take a bicycle trip in Europe sponsored by the Shumlin family’s Putney Student Travel.

    His slander of me says an awful lot more about Bob than it does about anything I do or say.

    • Bob Stannard :

      It’s more than a little humorous that Mr. Colin, and man who castigates, slashes and burns with the best of them, accuses me of slashing and burning.

      Here we are in day one of a government shut down, because 80 Republicans in the House can’t live the fact that affordable healthcare is being implemented today.

      Yes, Vermont is working towards adopting a single payer type system. Mr. Brock, Mr. Colin and others weighing in here don’t support that idea, or the person behind.

      I suppose that the good news is that the Republicans in the Vermont House have a greater sense of responsibility then their colleagues in Washington.

      I will agree that it is true that Mr. Colin has helped some people in our area. However, is he and the rest of the 1% willing to help out all of those who don’t have healthcare?

      It’s nice that some are willing to help others and that’s the way it should be, but not all think that way. There are many who don’t feel the obligation to help others, which is why the government needs to play a role.

      • Dave Bellini :

        Bob, you try to discredit Brock for what appears to be a mostly factual accounting of events. You fail to challenge him on the merits and get right to politics. He ran for Gov. but that doesn’t make everything he reports false. Anyone who takes issue with GMC or Vermont’s adventure in health care is either a 1%er or just hardhearted and uncaring. Not true. Wouldn’t it be great if the legislature and Shumlin developed a system to help the folks who are without insurance or underinsured, WITHOUT MEDDLING WITH EVERYONE ELSES INSURANCE? What Vermont is doing to people who were in Catamount and VHAP is just wrong. They will be getting slammed. Even the staunchest single payer advocates have pointed this out. It’s true that the top 1% will be just fine no matter what. BTW – our Gov. is part of the top 1%.
        .
        I’m in the state employees health plan. It is a pool of folks that are self-insured. Our premium increases have been negative or zero. We offer better coverage at a cheaper price than anything GMCB has devised. I don’t want to transition to one of these expensive plans. It would cost state employees much more and cost taxpayers more. This administration doesn’t want to use our plan as the model. They want to reinvent the wheel. We already have a better, more cost effective plan than Obamacare or Shumlincare. Believe it or not,,, it’s not only right wing republicans that are worried about what is happening in Vermont. It’s foolish to believe everything the Governor says just because he says it.

  26. Laura Brueckner :

    IBM has just notified retirees that “IBM is establishing a fund to provide financial assitance….if your total prescription drug costs exceed $100,00 in a given year.” They also state: “…explain how your IBM subsidy will work, ….”
    NOTE: If you haven’t read Elizabeth Ready’s “Pay Offs and Lay Offs” pick up a copy. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer off the poorer of us.

  27. rosemarie jackowski :

    10,535 pages of Obamacare regulations… this is a perfect plan for failure. Canada covered ALL people with a 13 page law.

    In the US we are still trying to reinvent the wheel, and it always comes out square.

    http://cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/waxman-10535-pages-obamacare-regs-it-important-i-read-it

    • Patricia Crocker :

      Tell that to this movie producer who made this documentary because three of his relatives died from cancer while on a “wait” list for treatment in Canada. One of them had to “wait” until his cancer got to stage 4 to be eligible for a medication that people in this country can get at any point in their cancer progression. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnqkIWwWDsg

  28. Mike Oltedal :

    Ralph and Bob each have a point of view that needs to be expressed and heard by others .Ralph has helped many people as have other 1% ers that I know . They are good kind people.
    Some of those 1%ers are fleeing the state due to its ever growing cost of staying in VT and its sad they will not be around to help.
    1% or not everyones voice and thoughts count.
    The bashing needs to stop on each side and the facts on the Health care subject need to come out.
    I for one would love to see Bob and Ralph continue ranting but make it on TV guys
    I think it would make a great show

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