Green Mountain Scare

by Steve Chambers

Recently, I attended a Health Care Forum at the Public Safety Building in Stowe. Three knowledgeable professionals were speakers including Wendy Wilton, Rutland Treasurer; Bob Gaydos, a health care insurance consultant and ERISA expert; and Dr. Bill Minsinger, a semi-retired orthopedist from Randolph, who has practiced at both Gifford Hospital and Dartmouth. Each gave a brief, but informative presentation from their perspectives on Green Mountain Care (Act 48), and then answered a plethora of questions from a stunned audience. Most of us, despite thinking we were well-informed and up-to-date legislatively, were surprised to learn how fast and recklessly the governor’s Green Mountain Care (GMC) proposal was flying through the halls under Montpelier’s golden dome.

I now refer to GMC as Green Mountain Scare because so little is known about the proposal; yet it continues to develop political momentum, largely because of Shumlin’s apparent obsession with forcing Vermont into a single payer system − regardless of the quality of care, or ultimate cost to taxpayers. Financially, the proposal is nothing short of a train wreck (even by conservative estimates that rely on a stable economy, moderate increases in health care costs, increased state taxation and very fragile federal subsides). Projections by Wendy Wilton indicate massive and unsustainable losses (year after year) for this proposed program, exceeding $300 million annually and culminating in a $2 billion deficit to the state (that’s billion with a B) within the first 5 years. Unbelievably, the Administration has not put forth a comparable projection of revenues and expenditures, nor have they publicly refuted any part of her analysis. The Governor, legislature, Green Mountain Care Board and advocates (such as VPIRG) have provided absolutely nothing in the way of a true projection including revenues and expenses, yet they continue to push the proposal with reckless abandon. Who would even consider proposing something this grand and intrusive without a solid business plan and realistic projections?? For an answer to that question, ask your local representative if they supported Act 48 (and why), and insist that the Governor demonstrate (with specific details) how Green Mountain Care will be financially sustainable.

The looming financial debacle is only one of the reasons to literally fear this legislation. Based on common sense and simple economics, it is quite clear that the following will also occur if GMC becomes reality; quality physicians will increasingly reject Vermont as a viable place to live and practice; many existing seasoned healthcare specialists will retire (if they are able) or flee the state to places with more realistic health care reform efforts; with the major anticipated cost increases, small businesses (under 50 employees) will “dump” their healthcare plans, taking away yet another option for employees; larger businesses will move out of state, and new employers will scratch Vermont off their list of potential places to grow their businesses; the “competitive” exchange where people will be able to search for health care options will quickly morph into a state controlled monopoly where options are limited, costs are high and plan choices are minimal; premiums to businesses and individuals will immediately increase by 30 – 50 %; plan choices will be restricted, especially high deductible plans, which will further limit an individual’s ability to control their own medical spending.

Why is Shumlin so boldly pursuing such a proposal? It’s difficult to understand since the plan, as proposed, defies all economic logic and basic common sense. Some have suggested that he views the implementation of GMC as a personal springboard to Washington. If that is true, financial crippling of the state doesn’t seem to be a concern, but rather a necessary evil. Others suggest that people with socialist leanings honestly believe that change necessitates complete destruction of that which “must” be changed (a major tenet of Marxism / Socialism / Communism). If that is the case, the governor is making significant progress!

Don’t take my word for it. If you are concerned about health care quality, cost and/or access (and you should be!) visit and evaluate the proposal for yourself. Get involved in this process now and understand the details.