The Commons: Scare tactics by state GOP target Vermont health-care reform

Editor’s note: This editorial was originally published in The Commons issue #155 (Wednesday, June 6, 2012).

It is no surprise that the Vermont Republican Party has been one of the most vigorous critics of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s plan to bring the state a universal health care system by 2017.

With health care about the only issue that the GOP has at its disposal to attack the governor as he begins his campaign for a second term, Republicans have complained that the Shumlin administration is deliberately delaying announcing how Green Mountain Care will be funded until after this fall’s elections, because the state cannot afford to pay for the plan.

So what’s the GOP alternative?

Apparently, it’s the same old policy nostrums the party has always supported: health savings accounts with high-deductible insurance policies, lower premiums for healthy lifestyles, limiting lawsuits against doctors, and simplifying administrative procedures.

If Vermont succeeds in developing a working health-care system that covers every resident and delivers better health outcomes for less money, other states will want to emulate us.

Anya Rader Wallack, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, recently told that the free market has failed when it comes to health care, and that allowing insurance companies to charge sicker people higher premiums is a mistake.

“Vermont pursued the concept of community rating [which requires insurance companies to offer insurance to people at the same price, regardless of their health status] a long time ago in the early 1990s, based on the philosophy that insurance is a way of spreading the risk amongst as broad a population as possible,” she said. “When you start segregating people by risk profile and charge more to people who are sicker, you are kind of undermining the whole concept.”

Shumlin is vigorously defending his approach toward fixing the state’s health care system. Speaking at the Vermont Press Association’s annual meeting last Thursday, he dismissed the scare tactics of the Vermont GOP.

“You’re going to hear a lot about, in the coming months, the unknowns, how frightening this is, how scary it is, how we don’t know exactly what the Green Mountain Health Care Board is designing, we want the answers now, and if we don’t get them that’s not fair, and it’s scary that we don’t know what’s going on and it’s scaring businesses and others away,” he said.

Shumlin warned that Vermont is “going to see a lot of big interests coming, the insurance companies and others who want to ensure that we fail, not because they really care about the little state of Vermont, but because they know that if the pony gets out of the shed in the state of Vermont, the stallion could get out of the shed in California and New York and other big states where governors say to me, ‘Wow! We want to know more about what you’re doing there, because it looks really interesting.’”

Shumlin is absolutely correct. If Vermont succeeds in developing a working health-care system that covers every resident and delivers better health outcomes for less money, other states will want to emulate us.

And that’s what the health-care battle is really about.

The insurance companies, the drug companies, and the medical device manufacturers love the status quo, because they are all making enormous profits from it. That’s why they have spent so much money fighting any attempts at reforming our nation’s health-care system.

Members of the Vermont Republican Party know that if health-care reform succeeds, they will be a minority party for years to come. That’s why they are trying to use the same tactics against Shumlin that the national GOP is using to destroy President Obama’s health-care plan.

Even though many of its central elements were supported by Republicans for years and it is modeled after the plan created in Massachusetts by then-Gov. (and now Republican presumptive presidential nominee) Mitt Romney, Obama’s plan is considered a threat to our nation’s freedom by many of the people that cheered the passage of Romney’s plan.
The only thing being threatened by health-care reform is the obscene profits of the medical-industrial complex

And if the U.S. Supreme Court rules later this month that the federal Affordable Health Care for America Act is unconstitutional, Vermont should still continue its efforts toward fixing a broken system.

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  • Without a doubt, the tactics used by opponents of Vermont’s healthcare reform effort can be self-serving, hypocritical and at times even untruthful. That’s true of any political debate on important issues. But I believe the majority of people (not corporations or lobbyists, but regular people) who oppose Vermont’s healthcare reform do so based on their sincere concern that its outcomes will not be positive for their families, friends and neighbors. I’m glad to see that the author of this piece didn’t succumb to the temptation to accuse ALL opponents of Vermont’s healthcare reform of being malicious or self-serving.

  • Paula Schramm

    A great editorial that sums up the financial and political motivations of Vermont’s health care reform opponents very well.