Cummings: Insurance or health care?

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Kelly Cummings of Fletcher, who is a member of the Vermont Workers Center’s Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign.

You have got to ask yourself, do you want insurance or do you want health care? If you answered health care, well, beware the Fear Monger. According to the dictionary, the term “fear mongering” means the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue. This is a tactic that historically has been used again and again. Fear mongering. Insurance companies and their front groups like to serve it up cold for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make no mistake about it … they’re expecting you will swallow it down without question.

By now you might have seen the Vermonters for Health Care Freedom’s ads on television, the Internet or perhaps heard them on the radio. The group’s new ads trying to convince you that keeping the insurance company status quo is the right thing for you to do. Darcie Johnston, who heads up the group, has begun the group’s full onslaught of scare ad tactics. Her ads are loaded with all kinds of scary words and phrases like: “scheme,” “not fair,” “not right,”“state secret,” “they’re hiding something” and “they’re not giving us any reason to trust them.” They also mention that this is going to “cost you 5 billion dollars.” As if this is going to be a new cost to you. What they don’t tell you is Vermont is already spending 5 billion dollars on health care, with a good percentage of it going to health insurance companies and their profits rather than your actual health care. So, no facts … just those scary words, phrases and a magician’s sleight of hand.

Now, I must say in all fairness, because Vermonters for Health Care Freedom will not release the identity of their financial contributors, I do not know if they are a front group for the insurance companies or not. I, nor you, have any way of knowing if they’re being funded by the insurance companies, those “big bucks” brothers or just the average citizen pitching in their five dollars when they can. Ms. Johnston is not saying, but somebody is sure paying for all that airtime. Ultimately we will never know, unless she chooses to reveal it.

When insurance companies and their front groups use scare tactics they like to exploit some of the words we as Vermonters and Americans hold dear. Words like freedom. If you believe what the insurance companies and Vermonters for Health Care Freedom are saying, then you believe they want to give you the freedom to purchase your insurance from a free market-based insurance system so you have free choice and will be a freer Vermonter because of it. You will be so free that you will have the freedom to lose your insurance if you lose your job, to declare bankruptcy and lose your home if you can’t pay your medical bills, to remain in your marriage, even if your spouse beats you, so you and your children don’t lose your spouse’s insurance, to have inadequate health care or none at all … to get sick and die. Well … you get the picture.

Truth is insurance companies could care less about your freedom or your health. They just want your money.

Freedom. It’s worth thinking about it. And it’s time to end this fear thing right here and now. Don’t let the insurance companies and their front groups scare you out of the health care you need and deserve. Don’t let them take the very words we hold dear as a society and twist them into something that means nothing to you and everything to them.

True freedom takes courage. True freedom takes faith. It always has and it always will.

So beware the Fear Monger, everyone. Let’s stay the course and see universal single-payer health care safely to its completion.

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walter carpenter
4 years 10 months ago

“Truth is insurance companies could care less about your freedom or your health. They just want your money.”

How well I know what that means. As a patient it was a struggle to get the insurance company to part with their money to pay claims that I and my ex-employer at the time paid them every month to insure.

Loved your essay, Kelly:)

Dan McCauliffe
4 years 10 months ago
I strongly disagree with this opinion piece that paints those who raise concerns about Vermont’s single-payer health system as insurance industry sponsored “naysayers”. Many of my patients have similarly raised concerns about the proposed single payer system. It is foolish to brush off criticism that may identify potential pitfalls that lie ahead. For example, this article points out earlier criticism to ObamaCare that is becoming a reality: I would encourage an open debate on the issues rather than dismissing those who disagree with your views as naysayers, fear mongers, etc. We are far more likely to find better solutions… Read more »
Bob Zeliff
4 years 10 months ago
Mr. McCauliffe I too favor healthy, thought full debate. I have seen very little of it from those opposed to Green Mountain Care. I too see, exactly, what Ms Cummings outlines correctly. Darcy Johnston group only used fear and miss information…so much so, evan her unnamed sponsors have found a need to replace her with another. Bruce Lisman, while a bit smoother, is another case where big money is being spent to spread concern with partial information, that is spun to miss inform. Evan your reference, is really talking about the exchanges, which were put into the Affordable Care Act… Read more »
Kelly Cummings
4 years 10 months ago

Just a note. Since writing this Op-Ed, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom’s Executive Director, Darcie Johnston, was replaced with Jeff Wennberg.

4 years 10 months ago

Talk about scare tactics and nasty name calling! This essay clearly shows that the VWC, and its supporters, are just as guilty and intolerant. In their quest for “social justice”, and making others pay for what they deem as “rights”, they continue to vilify anyone with a different opinion.

Walter Carpenter
4 years 10 months ago
“to remain in your marriage, even if your spouse beats you.” This goes on a lot more than you think. There are people are forced to stay in abusive relationships because of health insurance. I have known several and have listened to testimonies about this from others. “Many of my patients have similarly raised concerns about the proposed single-payer system.” Dr. McCauliffe, when I was seriously ill with an excessively life-threatening disease several years ago, I could only wish that Vermont had a single-payer system. If I were a patient of yours, I would be inquiring when, not if, it… Read more »
Jerry Kilcourse
4 years 10 months ago

Great letter Kelly. The “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom”should be for “single payer” as their name implies.

Many of us would also like to who is bankrolling their TV and radio ads.

Dave Bellini
4 years 10 months ago
I think there is misinformation and omitted information on both sides of the issue. But if you will excuse my analogy: the state has the “burden of proof.” The “naysayers” are not trying to sell a product. Status quo, awful though it may be, is a known, vs. a new health system that is largely an unknown in which even the architects cannot explain. The state should be more forthcoming about future plan details. I care less about who is funding VHCF than I do about the costs and the benefit levels of a future plan. Be leery of promises… Read more »
walter carpenter
4 years 10 months ago
“I care less about who is funding VHCF than I do about the costs and the benefit levels of a future plan. Be leery of promises made by politicians, of either party.” I agree on several points of your post. The questions you ask at the end of it will be answered as the Green Mountain Health Care Board does its work and the benefit plans of the exchanges fall into place. You also raised a valid point about Challenges for change, though I do not agree with the point in this context, for the simple reason that Challenges (A… Read more »
Kathy Callaghan
4 years 10 months ago
Let’s just face the facts – everybody is funded by somebody. The GMC proponents are funded by taxpayers’ dollars, (either Federal or State or both), which are used to pay the salaries and benefits of Robin Lunge, Steve Kimbell, Mark Larsen, et al. To continue arguing over who is funding whom doesn’t make a lot of sense. In the world of politics, nobody’s hands are really clean, and purity does not exist. It’s time to give it up already, and turn the conversation to the actual problems inherent in essentially abolishing a free marketplace, replacing it with something no state… Read more »
4 years 10 months ago
Kathy & Dave: Well said. The proponents are not communicating with the “people” before the election because they know that TAXES will have to be raised to incredible levels to sustain this folly. That would be the political kiss of death. It is all part of their grand plan to provide health care for all with other people’s money. It is especially great to read in their feel good propaganda that there will be winners and losers when this is all done…all the while they continue to spout off about fairness and equality. What a complete evasion of the truth.… Read more »
Doug Hoffer
4 years 10 months ago

Taxes instead of premiums.
Not taxes plus premiums.

And BTW – How much have your premiums gone up in the last 20 years?

Craig Powers
4 years 10 months ago
Doug: Yes, I do understand what you are saying but disagree with your tax and spend philosophy. What I see coming is high taxes designated for a minority of businesses and individuals/families that are above a certain income threshold. Please revisit the current property tax collection system, which puts the majority of the funding burden on higher income property owners. Your beloved progressive tax system in action. Please do not respond with the “fair share” argument for health care. Everyone is already paying their fair share for a long list of many other so called rights and programs. We do… Read more »
Paula Schramm
4 years 10 months ago
Yes, what we have now is “known”, and part of the known is that premiums and cost of health care is increasing each year at a truly unsustainable rate. So we must face the “unknown” , by taking a look at what others have done better and seeing how to make it work for the state of Vermont. The idea of “free market” insurance company competitive choice HAS been tried, and has NOT worked either.That has a lot to do with why we have by far the most expensive health care of industrialized countries, with worse health outcomes, and 50… Read more »
don eggleston
4 years 10 months ago

Hoffer said:

“Taxes instead of premiums.
Not taxes plus premiums.”

No, in some cases it will be taxes plus premiums. There are businesses in Vermont that have interstate, unionized workforces and those businesses have contracts to pay for employee health care. They cannot get out of those contracts just because “go-it-alone” Vermont enacts single payer. Those employers will pay both the premium and the tax.

Unless . . . Hoffer is advocating that those business just ignore their union contracts . . .

Al Walskey
4 years 9 months ago
It has been my experience that “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom” are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their deceptive, misleading ads airing on WCAX TV is reminiscent of the “Harry and Louise” ads used to kill the attempts of the Clinton Administration to save lives through health care reform just as Medicare has since it became law. In March of 2011 VFHC held a meeting at the statehouse in conference room 10 where they revealed their true intentions. Senator Randy Brock presided over the proceedings in which Hitler, Stalin, communists, socialists, Pol Pot, and brown shirts were used to demean and… Read more »
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