Astroturf Pressure Behind Vermont’s Rush to Single Payer?

by Robert Maynard 

In Vermont’s rush to be the first state in the nation to enact a single payer health care system, a lot of questions are being left unanswered. According to a recent WCAX-TV article, business leaders have questions regarding choice of what is covered:

“Well, I think it’s the fear of the unknown,” said Lon Finkelstein of the Vermont Tent Company.

Finkelstein says under the current system his employees have a choice between two health insurance policies.”

There are also questions about how the proposed reform will be financed that even members of the Shumlin Administration are acknowledging:

“On the financing we’re being honest about it- we need to spend more time,” said Anya Rader Wallack, the special assistant to the governor for health reform.

So, if even members of the Shumlin Administration are admitting that “we need to spend more time”, why the rush to pass something that has raised more questions than it has proposed solutions?

If this was only a matter of doing what is in the best interest of Vermonters, the sensible thing would be to wait for some answers to these questions before ramming this through. The problem is that this is not just about responding to the needs of Vermonters. There is a large and well-funded national movement called the Universal Health Care Action Network behind Vermont’s push for a single payer system that gives new meaning to the term “Astroturf”. The concern is more about using Vermont as “a springboard” to push for the movement’s idea of what reform should look like:

“Vermont is leading the way to universal health care using national reform as a springboard and based on a single payer system.If one state can make real progress on comprehensive health reform, that will help all of us no matter where we are in the struggle in our own states!”

The list of coalition partners that they have put together is fairly substantial and represents a LOT of resources that can be utilized to push this proposed reform through hastily without stopping to answer the questions that Vermonters have. The group has even sent out a fundraising letter to state groups from all over the country to raise money to buy advertisements aimed at pushing the proposed single payer reform through.

As big as that coalition is, it is not the only effort pushing for a single payer healthcare system. There is another group called “Health Care For America Now“. This group may be even bigger than the UHCN. Here is how their website describes them:

“Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a national grassroots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states representing 30 million people dedicated to winning quality, affordable health care we all can count on in 2010 and beyond. Our organization and principles are supported by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and more than 190 Members of Congress.”

In 2009 the group received $5 Million in support form George Soros. The same year they did a study on the problems with Vermont’s insurance market, which they used as an excuse to push for single payer. What the study does not say is that it was reforms proposed by Vermont’s political leadership, which resulted in yet more government interference in the private insurance industry market that ruined the market.

The fact that HCAN’s study does not take into account the impact of previous reform efforts that increased government involvement in the market raises questions on the validity and motivation of that study. Such questions are amplified when one considers that the proposed remedy is even more government intervention in the healthcare market.

Given all the resources that are being marshaled to hastily push this effort through, is it any wonder that the effort for reform of Vermont’s healthcare system is not taking time to stop and seek answers to the questions raised by a growing number of Vermonters?


11 thoughts on “Astroturf Pressure Behind Vermont’s Rush to Single Payer?

  1. I am dumbfounded by Vermonters like David Schoales. Single payer is the holy grail of Socialism. You are asking the very people who screwed up the cost of health care to rectify the problem. They caused the problem! The costs of this plan, and let me say there will be no way to contain it, is printed this month in the NEJournal of Medicine. You are willing to give up your freedom that your ancestors probably fought and died for, for Socialism? For health care which will end up costing us the state and in all liklihood will cost more than what you are paying now? Will you get the same quality of health care you have now? Not if there are not any MD’s left living here. I have a small business and I can tell you David, I will have to close after 25 years. 96.5% of all employment in this state comes from small business. How many will go next door to NH? Do we need reform? YES!
    But it should be reform which does not mandate you rob from Peter to pay for Paul. In needs to be consistant with our principles and our values. NOT SOCIALISM!

  2. “advertising and rhetoric to stop reform is much louder and far-reaching than pro-reform influences.”

    Not from where I stand. Show me a similar effort from free market forces that even comes close to matching the resources mobilized for the effort to push a single payer system on Vermont.

    Finally, the issue is not “stopping reform” vs. going forward with reform. This is a simplistic and deceptive way of framing the issue. Instead of asking whether our health care system is in need of reform, perhaps we should be examining the nature of the reform being proposed. In attempts to reform our healthcare system we have already tried community rating, Catamount Health, and VHAP, each of which involved greater government intervention into the healthcare market. The fact that we see enough of a problem with our healthcare system to be proposing yet another reform clearly indicates that the previous reforms did not get the job done. Before stomping on the gas pedal as a response and speeding up our traveling in the same direction, perhaps we should take the time to ask the question of whether the fundamental direction of these previous reforms is aggravating the problem. Maybe the answer is to reverse direction and free up the healthcare market from excessive government involvement.

  3. OK, but your point in your article is that “Health Care for America Now” and “Universal Health Care Action Network” are providing resources to “push single-payer reform through hastily” with advertisements and fund-raising petitions. You didn’t say anything about campaign funding in your article. Your statistics are thorough but kind of miss the point – advertising and rhetoric to stop reform is much louder and far-reaching than pro-reform influences.

    • Those who are against marxist health care are most certainly not “louder” than its proponents. It’s just that they are correct, so more people listen to them, even though they’re not screaming and holding violent protests.

  4. Actually, I have been tracking the various sources of money flowing into our political system. In the 2010 election cycle that single biggest donor was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as $87.5 Million. The main source of corporate giving was the Chamber of Commerce, who came in second at $75 Million. Coming in third was American Crossroads and Crossroads GOP at $65 Million. They were a group organized by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, which could be considered a source of corporate giving. Behind them was the Service Employees International Union at $44 Million and the National Education Association at $40 Million.

    In short, among the major donors in the 2010 election cycle, union related giving accounted for $171.5 Million and giving that can be somehow associated with corporations accounted for $140 Million. I have heard a lot of rhetoric claiming that the bulk of money flowing into the political system comes from corporate interest, but have seen no hard evidence to back up those assertions.

    As for the transparency, once agin the rhetoric does not fit with the evidence.

    This question was explored by a Hudson Institute Conference that was held in 2005 called “When Non-Profits Attack: Nonprofit Organizations as Political Advocates”. The theme of the conference was that the use of non-profit organizations is increasingly advancing political interests. Since then, using non-profits as a funnel for money to advance a political agenda is starting to be more widely seen as a serious problem.

    According to a 2010 Wall Street Journal article: “The Senate’s chief tax writer has called for a federal investigation into advocacy groups that have become increasingly popular vehicles for outside donations.

    These groups, known as 501(c) 4s after the section of the tax code that defines them, can raise unlimited donations from individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend on political advertisements.”

    The problem has become more pronounced after changes in the campaign finance laws according the Wall Street Journal article: “After a 2002 campaign-finance law that banned companies and labor unions from making unlimited donations directly to political parties, more outside political entities began running their own independent campaigns for political candidates.”

  5. If you’re using resources allocated as a yard stick to measure dubious intent, then I’d suggest trying to find out how much the insurance companies are spending on keeping things the way they are now. Good luck though, because they’re nowhere near as transparent as the groups you’re referring to. One thing is for sure though; insurance companies have access to way more resources than anyone trying to affect change in health care.

    • If only Vermonters had access to insurance companies! Before Howard Dean screwed up our market, there were a dozen insurance companies we could choose from. Now there is only Blue Cross, and the government. If our congressmen cared about the people of this state, they would sponsor legislation to stop obstructing the purchase of health insurance across state lines. This would instantly give Vermonters the option of better coverage at lower prices.

  6. You may not be receiving any financial support for your efforts but there most certainly IS a national effort to raise money in an effort to push this through. Again, here is a link to the fundraising letter being sent out by the leaders of one national coalition: http://www.uhcan.org/images/uhcan/pdf/helpvermontwin-coverletter.pdf

    The other coalition is represented in Vermont by VPIRG: “VPIRG leads the Vermont state coalition for the national Health Care for America Now (HCAN).” http://www.vpirg.org/node/48

    Again, I do not doubt your sincerity, but there clearly are at least two well funded national coalitions behind this push. This is something that Vermonters need to be aware of.

  7. I am a Vermonter and receive no money from anyone unless they buy my woodproducts, and I am spending all my free time working to support the change to single payer. Everyone I know that supports this is a Vermonter. What is being done around the country has nothing to do with our efforts here.
    There are lots of problems to be solved in creating a universal health program that contains costs and provides decent care for us. Can’t you spend your time helping with that instead of searching for boogymen. We are citizens, and we’re gonna get this done!

    • No Vermonter I know is in favor of Marxism, which government-run health care certainly represents. No real Vermonter wants to own slaves, or to be a slave. When you force other people to work for your benefit that is slavery. This is a free state, and you if you don’t like it, please leave.

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