Health Care

Representative looks to force Shumlin to tip his hand on Green Mountain Care financing

Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, isn’t satisfied with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s decision to delay the presentation of financing options for single-payer to lawmakers before the end of the legislative session.

Browning sent a public records request to Shumlin’s health care financing expert asking to see the work he’s completed thus far on tax options to pay for Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s planned universal health care program.

A fundamental premise of Green Mountain Care is to decouple health insurance from employment by paying for it with taxes instead of premiums.

“It is past time that this administration was asked to stand and deliver,” said Browning in an email release.

“If the complete financing scenario, or scenarios, are not fully developed, the draft plans and other materials that have been generated thus far should be shared with the Legislature and all Vermonters,” she added.

Political convenience is no excuse for the delay, Browning said, noting that Shumlin was statutorily required to present a financing plan in January 2013.

It’s not just Republicans that are frustrated with Shumlin for not producing a financing plan, she said. There are Democrats who support single-payer, but want to know how the administration plans to pay for it.

Browning said she isn’t sure if the administration will comply with her request, but in her email she writes, “Such a refusal will simply increase the seriousness of this failure to obey the law and to abide by principles of transparency and accountability.”

If the administration doesn’t turn over what is known as a “work product,” then she said she’s prepared to take further action. Browning said she would consider calling on the House to seek a legislative subpoena of the documents she’s called for. She acknowledged that subpoena is unlikely without the support of Democratic leadership.

By not releasing his administration’s work on a financing plan, Shumlin is in violation of the law, she said.

It’s disappointing, in her view, that members of his own party won’t publicly ask that he be held to account.

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Morgan True

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  • Cynthia, you are one of the few who take the time and trouble to join us in commenting on Vermont Digger. I appreciate your interest, and your sensible action with regard to your party’s highest-ranking elected official in Vermont state government.

    What if the “work product” is just an envelope with a few scribbles on it? What if no one can read it?

    Worse: What if there is no “work product” — no documents? What if the only “papers” to date are some lollipop and bubblegum wrappers?

    I look forward to hearing more about this.

  • Gail Graham

    Cynthia, Thank you again for speaking what you believe, as a person as well as a responsible legislator.

  • All Vermont taxpayers should agree with and thank Rep. Browning for making this request. She is calling for transparency on a subject dramatically important to all Vermonters. Her fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle need to join in this effort.

    The taxpayers have paid for the work done to date on the financing options and have a right to see what they’ve bought.

    Unlike our recent experience with the Shumlin administration in which it failed to investigate the work of CGI on the exchange and share it’s findings with the taxpayers, lets not repeat that mistake again.

    The funding of the single payer system is perhaps the most significant financial issue to ever come before the people of Vermont. It’s risky and will have a huge impact on everyone: individuals, businesses and the state. Yet, the Governor is so amazingly casual about getting the work done and keeping the people meaningfully informed.

    The Governor says it’s more important to get this work done correctly than to rush it. Normally, one would agree with such a sentiment, however, he has already missed deadlines on producing financing recommendations. Add this to his mismanagement of the health exchange rollout and it’s clear that the people need to know what’s been done to date and where are things are going.

    How much time does the Freedom of Information give the administration to turn over these records?

    Morgan True, you may want to mark your calendar for a follow up story on this, we’ll be looking for it.

  • Kathy Callaghan

    Thank you Cynthia for being on the job and paying attention, as so many legislators are not. Yours should not be the first or only call for transparency and accountability.

    This is a Governor who has demonstrated untrustworthiness in many of his public and private transactions. It boggles the mind that more legislators are not calling for this information. If Michael Costas was close to being able to deliver the two funding proposals you know that some information exists that can be reviewed.

    Thanks again for your due diligence behalf of all Vermonters.

  • Craig Powers

    Thank you Representative Browning. Please keep your voice loud and clear towards your fellow reps, and the political game players in the Administration, that breaking the law is not acceptable. If the Administration had a workable financing plan, they should have no political fear about releasing the details. I guess the financing is a little harder than all the proponents of single payer have let on.

    Financing details were due in 2013 per the statute. Where are the details Governor?

  • Cynthia Browning

    In my request I have asked for work products and draft plans, reports, and memos related to scenarios for financing the universal coverage/single payer program. This is so that if there are no fully developed plans, we can see drafts or reports about the options being explored.
    I am not asking for basic research.

    I have also asked for any emails or notes on meetings in which Mr. Costa may have been told to stop working on the financing plans.

    I think that whether you support the state run health insurance or not, it is important to understand how it might be financed so that we can either get ready for the transition or pursue alternative approaches.

    I will share whatever I get with Vermonters, but I expect that the Administration may claim executive privilege. If they do, it will just highlight the failure of the Governor to obey Act 48, which required him to produce financing plans by January 15th, 2013.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    • Jamie Carter

      “I will share whatever I get with Vermonters, but I expect that the Administration may claim executive privilege. If they do, it will just highlight the failure of the Governor to obey Act 48, which required him to produce financing plans by January 15th, 2013.””

      For which he should be held accountable.

      I would draw your attention to the Vermont Constitution Ch2. ss 20

      “The Governor is also to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. The Governor is to expedite the execution of such measures as may be resolved upon by the General Assembly”

      and Ch2 ss 57

      “The House of Representatives shall have the power to order impeachments, which shall in all cases be by a vote of two-thirds of its members.”

      If the good Governor does not wish to obey the law then it is the duty of the House to order an impeachment and decide what to do. Please note that I am not arguing he should be removed from office necessarily but he does need to understand (the easy way or the hard way) that he is still beholden to the law. We have a system of checks and balances for a reason.

      Besdies, if Shumlin won’t follow Act 48 why should he expect me too?

    • Bob Zeliff

      Ms Browning,

      I am bewildered how you can maintain this level of being un informed as a responsible legislature. you have access , and should have knowledge, of information that has been provided to your peers in the legislature, both in the House Health Care Committee and the Ways and Means Committees.

      In speaking to active members of both, and to the Chair of the Senate Health Care committee the say that they have all the information they need to keep going forward.

      You should be talking with them. I guess it is easier to complain when you really don’t know what is going on. I recommend you take some time while you are in Montpelier and sit in on those committee meetings.

      I would hope you as a legislator would do their best to be informed….not just bellyache.

      You know you can find the Health Care Financing report here:

      Hope you will take the time to read it. It may help your understanding.

  • Jamie Carter

    I’m very impressed by Mrs. Browning’s willingness to put partisanship aside and hold Shumlin’s feet to the fire. There isn’t much of that these days in either party.

    The republicans as well as the rest of the democrats should stand with her in calling for proof that Shumlin has the slightest clue as to what he is doing. If he refuses he should be threatened with impeachment, as he is in violation of state law. It won’t go anywhere but a good hard slap on the wrist may get his head out of his arse.

  • J. Scott Cameron

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for the Governor to respond. More likely he will lawyer up and run this out until legislature leaves town.

    The majority in legislature has only itself to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

  • Margaret Harrington

    Thank you, Rep. Cynthia Browning. You are a true leader working on behalf of the people of Vermont.
    Your actions also shed a light on the do nothings in your own party.

  • Governor Shumlin WILL NOT release the financial “work product” nor the earlier expensive MASS study on financing, for to do so would doom both his gramd scheme for “single payer” and his hopes for a successful reelection in the fall. I am sure he will present us with a big surprise just after election day!

  • Seth Henry

    Nice work Rep Browning! Any other reps reading this – heads up. We (the citizens) are all waiting for you to sign on. Seriously. Its your job.

    Rep Browning you just might poll as the frontrunner in the gov race as an Independent. Write in.

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Thank you, Rep. Browning. Please keep up the good work. We are with you.

  • Cynthia Browning

    For Mr. Zeliff,

    I have read the report to which you refer. It is not a financing plan for the state run health insurance program, aka Green Mountain Care or “single payer”. It contains an actual financing plan for the Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange. But in terms of the “single payer”, the report’s authors discuss conditions and possibilities, but do not offer specific alternative ways to finance the “single payer” with tax revenues. At the time of the report the Administration said that they could not provide specifics and did not need to since 2017 was so far away.

    The Governor himself said earlier this year that the legislature would have various possible financing plans this spring. He has now said that this will not happen until 2015.

    I have reviewed the documents and testimony on the House Ways & Means website. No financing plan has been presented by the Administration.

    I am only asking for material that the Legislature should have had last year and that the Governor said he would provide to us in some form this year.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

  • “What! do you tremble? are you all afraid?
    Alas! I blame you not; for you are mortal,
    And mortal eyes cannot endure the devil.
    Avaunt! thou dreadful minister of hell,
    Thou hadst but power over Vermonters’ mortal bodies,
    Their souls thou canst not have: therefore be gone!”

    — Lady Anne, in Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” Act I, Scene II (slightly edited)

    Cynthia, I guess it has fallen to you to play the lonely role of Lady Anne in this drama.

    Remember what happens to Lady Anne in the end…. Blossoms of the doomed “House of York” are dropping off the twig left and right, in anticipation of the general rout that will take place this November. Why not join the (ultimately triumphant) House of Lancaster, “lest thou increase the number of the dead.”

    A very good film of this play: “Richard III,” starring Sir Laurence Olivier