Donka: Welch representing Obama, not Vermont, on health care

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Donka, a police officer in Woodstock who was the Republican candidate against Peter Welch for U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. He is considering a run for the same seat in 2014. He lives in Hartford.

Three years ago, Congressman Peter Welch, as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) commonly referred to as Obamacare. The bill, produced by the Obama administration, has over 2,800 pages and was not read by Congress before passage. Among the famous quotes associated with the act was one by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the (health care) bill so you can find out what is in it.”

And so it is with Peter Welch, who has continually praised this legislation despite its regulatory overreach, its complexity and its cost. Welch was not alone in his blind faith. He passed the ACA without a peek at the contents. The Senate voted 60-39 straight down party lines. The House voted 219-212, with all House Republicans along with 34 House Democrats voting against it. Not a single Republican voted for the act in either house of Congress.

Fast forward to 2013: The American public, including Vermonters, are getting a taste of what’s in it; there are mandates and deadlines to sign up on websites that don’t work; there are health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket increases. Some cancer centers won’t accept exchange coverage. And now, security breaches and identity theft risks are on the short list of serious problems.

When it was clear how flawed the ACA rollout had become, Welch lauded the president for enacting the same delay suggested by the House Republicans just weeks earlier.


Recently, Welch had an opportunity to support the solutions to the problems presented by this law, but did not. Welch voted against the Upton bill, which would allow 5 million Americans (including thousands of Vermonters with Medicare supplemental policies) who received a cancellation notice to keep their existing health care plan. Interestingly, 39 House Democrats supported the Upton bill.

Prior to the Upton bill, there were opportunities to pass continuing resolutions for the federal budget. These resolutions originated in the House and had provisions to delay the implementation of the ACA-Obamacare for one year. Mr. Welch did not support any of the resolutions. Afterwards, he blamed the GOP for the government shutdown. When it was clear how flawed the ACA rollout had become, Welch lauded the president for enacting the same delay suggested by the House Republicans just weeks earlier. Mr. Welch, and others, who voted against the continuing resolutions, were the real culprits in the government shutdown — and hypocrites to boot.

The Obamacare program, including Vermont Health Connect, is failing. Despite these problems, the Obama and Shumlin administrations continue to make promises they cannot keep. Promises of being able to keep your insurance or your doctor have become a cruel joke. Peter Welch’s punishing actions in Washington and his recent silence in the Vermont press on this issue reveal him not as a Democrat but as an Obama loyalist. Despite the harm that has come to his constituents, from his actions or inactions, he has demonstrated his commitment to serve the Oval Office, and not us.


  1. Mike Oltedal :

    Is it blowing smoke or will we be able to afford insurance. I am trying hard to think the system would not let us down.
    Our forms are in but we still await to see the tax incentive so we know what plan we can afford.
    SO far we have our plan picked based on what we think we will get , if in fact it is true we will order and pray it is true
    thats all we can do , we have no other option

    • Wendy Wilton :

      Good luck with that.

      • Lee Russ :

        And what is your alternative? You seem to oppose publicly funded universal care, you seem to oppose the ACA, what’s left? The current system?

  2. Rev,. Lyle M. Miller, Sr. Retired :

    I just received an email from Peter Welsh in which he said, “I oppose any effort to exempt Congress from this law and appreciate your comments.” However, he failed to address the issue in his email with respect to Mr. Obama’s already granting exemptions to many businesses and union leaders as well as Congress. I sent him back an email asking what he planned to do about the actions that the president has already put into action, and am waiting for a reply which I don’t believe will be anything other than a passing attempt to appease my concerns, like the democrats who are supposed to represent us in Vermont but seldom do. I could write a book on the lack of adequate representation we have had over the last several decades since Leahy, Sanders and company have been in Washington, but will not right now. Anyway, Vermont needs to initiate some serious changes in its leadership and representation here and in Washington and do it soon!

  3. Keith Stern :

    “I oppose any effort to exempt Congress from this law and appreciate your comments.” Typical Welch double talk. Congress is exempt from the law already congressman. Why don’t you use the bi-partisan cooperation you brag about and work to ensure Obamacare covers all people in government as well?
    We have 3 in Washington who would rather give the poor more handouts than actually work to create a business friendly environment which would create less unemployment and higher wages.
    But then if people aren’t living off the government they have no need to vote for them.

    • Tom Haviland :

      Absolutely not true. Members of Congress, as as result of an amendment from Chuck Grassely (who was trying to be cute), must get their health insurance from the exchanges.

      • Keith Stern :

        I assume they have access to the military hospitals and have the platinum plans. And I would guess that they won’t have any out of pocket expenses no matter what they tell us.

  4. Lee Russ :

    So the 2014 political campaign has officially begun in Vermont, I guess.

    While I’d prefer a publicly funded universal care plan to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there certainly are some benefits to the ACA which Mr. Donka completely ignores, and, obviously, the web site problems are just that–web site problems–not problems with the substance of the ACA.

    In addition to getting far more people covered for health care, the ACA prohibits denial of coverage for preexisting conditions and for most policies, requires a minimum level of coverage.

    Forbes actually has a pretty good summary of what that minimum level of coverage is:

    People should at least know what it actually is before deciding if they oppose or support it. Meanwhile….let’s get Green Mountain Care up and running in 2017 to keep the ACA’s benefits and avoid its pitfalls.

    • Amy Lorraine :

      I will be VERY interested to know what the grand total is on the “far more people covered”. Will that include the people who don’t want/won’t use but now must pay for insurance? And will they include the people who will now lower their thermostats and cut their grocery bill in half to afford it? Because as far as I can see, all the truly “poor people” had Vermont Health Connect and they were happy. Now they’ll be trying to cover deductibles and or going without prescriptions they need. Personally, I don’t need maternity, birth control, prenatal and prostate coverage but by God, I’ll have it ’cause the gov’t says I need it and will pay for it. Of course, we’ll never see any real numbers. They’ll be fudged up like the 7% unemployment rate that doesn’t include people who gave up looking, who are seriously underemployed or working two or three part-time jobs and still going under. YAY VT!!! Gotta luv the numbers game.

      • Lee Russ :

        “Because as far as I can see, all the truly “poor people” had Vermont Health Connect and they were happy.”

        I assume you meant VHAP, not Health Connect, and

        – no, not all poor people were “happy”
        – yes, many Vermonters who were not covered before will be covered now especially (1) people with very low incomes whose “resources” disqualified them from Medicaid until the ACA expanded Medicaid; and (2) all the people who get coverage now for their pre-existing conditions.
        – we aren’t talking about just Vermont

        Did you read the Forbes article linked in my comment? You can hate whatever you want, you may indeed be a person worse off under the ACA, and I certainly prefer a publicly funded universal care system, but that doesn’t mean that the ACA doesn’t help a lot of people.

  5. Char Osterlund :

    On what facts does Keith Stern base his opinion that our “3 in Washington” would rather give handouts than promote employment and higher wages? I suggest he watches who supports higher minimum wage legislation. I also suggest that he looks at the number of people who are the working poor. Perhaps he should make a budget based on $8.73 an hour, the minimum wage in Vermont for 2014, to give him a better perspective on the life of the working poor.

    • Keith Stern :

      Sorry Char but I work hard to make a good living. When I started my business my wife and I worked so many hours that we were probably working for $2-$3.00 until the business took off. You know what? It never hurt either one of us to work 60-80 hours a week.
      You assume that people working entry level jobs their entire lives because they do nothing to benefit themselves are entitled to government assistance? What is wrong with working a second job or bettering oneself to bring their income up?
      As far as for my opinion, what proposals have any of those three brought forth to create a better business environment? Lower energy costs? NO! Lower taxes for businesses? NOT HARDLY. Tax adjustments to make us more competitive with other countries? Nope again

  6. Robert Hooper :

    A simple regurgitation of the right wing drivel being foisted on us by the likes of the Tea Party loyalists and other agenda driven goofballs. Bring on the next election if this is the basis of the campaign to unseat the incumbent-who has become a deal maker with great across the aisle style. When will the Vermont Republican Party start to embrace Vermont Values and stop trying to import the junk Fox news tries to wholesale ??

    • Keith Stern :

      Vermont values like what? Shumlin taking advantage of his neighbor or sweetheart land deals? How about the constant deceptions? What about Welch avoiding talking to constituents who disagree with him?
      What about refusing to press for the truth about Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS scandal?
      What is the Vermont values you and Welch espouse?
      Robert you are such a lost cause that you probably can’t admit that Obama has lied constantly since before his first term started. You would rather blame conservatives for every problem or perceived problem.

      • Lee Russ :

        Are you ever going to give the Fox talking points a rest? No matter what the subject: Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS scandal!!!!!

        That makes as much sense as my responding to every conservative article with a recitation of the many evils of George Bush, and/or Paul Weyrich and/or Rush Limbaugh and/or Ann Coulter and/or Michael Savage.

        It kills discussion, avoids debate, and results in nothing.

        • Keith Stern :

          Lee try to be objective just once. I realize the difficulty in that for you but if you could be for just a few seconds you would be able to admit that if under a Republican administration liberal groups were targeted and delayed from getting nonprofit status you would be upset. You would be even more angry if the president lied that it were 2 “rogue” employees carrying it out and it was then revealed that not only wasn’t it true it was far more sinister than that and the president kept quiet about it.
          Fast and Furious where over 300 innocent people were murdered with an assist from the justice department and a Republican president refused to allow the truth to come out?
          Benghazi where 4 Americans serving this country were murdered by terrorists with a Republican president who refused to call for help and then lied about the cause and what transpired?
          If it were at all possible for you to be honest you would admit that you would be very angry if any of these things happened under a Republican administration.
          How much Bush bashing did you do when he was president?

          • Lee Russ :

            I guess the answer to my question was that you won’t ever give the Fox talking points a rest.

            I guarantee you that any “Bush bashing” I did was in a relevant context: I did not bring up manufacturing a war when the subject was tax policy, and vice versa. Nor did I form my opinion on any of his actions by getting heavily biased news from limited sources.

            There is no point in an endless “yes he did, no he didn’t” exchange.

      • Robert Hooper :

        Vermont Values like actually trying to help folks who need it. Shumlin faced his own problem on the property deal, which he never should have gotten into. Welch avoiding people who don’t agree with him, FINE WITH ME-frankly he doesn’t take the time to meet with everyone who AGREES with him either. Once he takes a position do you actually expect to get to parade 50 folks into the office to eat up his time? Talk to a staffer, send a letter, own up to the idea that your opinion is not going to carry the day. As to the other issues maybe you should try another TV spot for a while. CSPAN has shown a lot of investigation on most if not all of your “lets make a big deal about whatever we can” topics. In your response to CHAR, you seem to be looking for a bit of a handout yourself in the form of lower taxes and such. Want to justify that proposal?

        • Keith Stern :

          Helping people is one thing but keeping them dependent on the government is something totally different.
          As for looking for some handout by lowering taxes, the idea of government originally was to be as unobtrusive and invasive to people as possible. Doing ridiculous things such as giving grants to restore Coca Cola’s original building or paying VT Law School to develop environmental laws is not our government’s responsibility.
          Welch avoiding people who don’t agree with him, FINE WITH ME If he doesn’t want to represent all his constituents he shouldn’t run for office.

    • patricia crocker :

      Ad Hominem.

  7. Wendy Wilton :

    Mark Donka is raising a valid point in his letter that we lack true and honest representation in DC and all we get is double talk from our 3 congressional officials. Health care is just one issue among many.

    Important to note: Mr. Welch had an opportunity to vote on a CR which ensured that congress would be required to participate in ACA at the same level as every US citizen, but he did not support it. While it is true that congress and other federal employees will have to buy through the exchange at some point, they will receive rich subsidies to do so, unlike most of us, so they can pick the gold or platinum plan without much skin in the game.

    So Mr. Welch’s letter where he states he opposes any effort to exclude congress form ACA is rubbish and he knows it. Sadly, most Vermonters don’t know it.

    • Robert Hooper :

      How much are the RICH subsidies you mention? I have not seen that determined so I assume you have access to information I don’t. Can you quote me the number? Just looking for facts rather than a possibly unfounded basis for the generalized comment. I think the more people see about the changes to the sick care system and the possible move to get the Blue Cross’ hand out of our pockets for taking a big cut in executive compensation, they decide they may like it. ONly time will tell.

  8. Keith Stern :

    @ Lee, yes I’m sure you didn’t get your news sources from heavily biased news sources. You probably went to the obscure news networks that only liberals know about.
    I guarantee you that any “Bush bashing” I did was in a relevant context
    Sure 4 people murdered and the president refusing to send help is not relevant to anything, neither was the IRS targeting conservative groups or Obama repeatedly lying to the country about Obamacare.
    one of that is relevant at all according to every liberal I’ve heard from.

  9. Kristin Sohlstrom :

    Y’all realize, I hope, that the “volume” of uninsured people in VT is based on only 7% of Vermonters who are NOT insured as of 2009 numbers. Out of the 7%, there are people who choose not to have health insurance for a variety of reasons – either they can afford not to be insured, or they find it less expensive to be uninsured and pay cash for a reduced rate, OR they don’t practice Western medicine at all. (Note that the alternative medicine world in VT is a booming industry.) So really, it’s only a percentage after all of that where there are people who aren’t truly insured and want to be…so what’s THAT number? 2% of all Vermonters?

    • Keith Stern :

      It would have much less expensive and much simpler to just pay for those few people’s healthcare. But those of us that can think for ourselves know that isn’t the reason for all of this.

    • Lee Russ :

      Don’t know if your reference point is the Affordable Care Act, which is obviously far broader than Vermont, or the planned Green Mountain Care universal health plan, but….

      I assume you got your 7% from the 2009 report “Study of the Uninsured and

      The 7% figure is a fairly small part of the story. According to that report:

      “In late 2009, 7.6% of all Vermont residents were uninsured. This represents a total of 47,460 residents.

      “In late 2009, 27.9% of all Vermont residents under the age of 65 were underinsured. This represents a total of 160,406 residents.
      “Among adults aged 18 to 64, 10.8% or 43,774 Vermont residents aged 18 to 64 lacked health insurance coverage. More than half (52%) of these adults have lacked coverage for more than a year.

      “The percentage of adults who are underinsured is highest among those who purchased their private health insurance directly in contrast to those who purchased health insurance through an employer.

      “Among those who directly purchased their insurance, 51% were underinsured while 27% of those with employer related insurance were underinsured.

      “A quarter (26%) of working adults in Vermont was underinsured while 38% of nonworking adults was underinsured. In general, underinsurance is related to employer size with about a third of those working for employers with fewer than 100 employees underinsured while less than a third are underinsured among those working for companies with 100 or more employees.”

      It’s the uninsured, it’s the underinsured, it’s the cost of insurance, it’s the fact that the tie between insurance and employment no longer works in this global economy…..

      • Kristin Sohlstrom :

        Underinsured doesn’t really mean anything. It’s actually a fancy marketing phrase which inflates numbers to make an idea relevant.

        Underinsured still equals being insured. It just means individuals have to pay more out of pocket. I remember the days when coming up with a $5 co-pay was a burden to my family but that was my problem, not yours.



Comment policy Privacy policy
Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Donka: Welch representing Obama, not Vermont, on health care"