Is single payer support beginning to crack?

by Rob Roper

Terry Hallenbeck reports in the Free Press that Mark Larson (D-Burlington), who is the chair of the House Health Care Committee and point person in the push for a single payer system, addressed the Democratic Caucus to buck up the troops after Town Meeting break.

H.202 is supposed to be voted out of committee next Tuesday, and it is expected that the votes will be there. With a 92 (plus five Progs and two sympathetic Independents) to 48 advantage, Larson and Speaker Shap Smith have plenty of wiggle room.

Readers will recall that House Republicans called on constituents to ask some in-depth questions of their legislators about the proposed legislation during the week off. It appears that the results of that questioning have left some Democratic knees wobbly.

Mike Bertrand gives an analysis on Vermont Tiger with, “All signs point to no.” His take-away is that, over the long haul, this thing ain’t happening, no way, no how. There’s considerable evidence to back up this assessment.

Senior citizens’ objections to being included in a singe payer scheme were so forceful in their objections the plan never considered them. Vermont’s 107,000 citizens covered by ERISA protected policies are in open revolt. Rumblings from the 12,000 strong teachers’ union about being exempt are troublesome. And, small businesses are learning that they are the ones likely to bear the brunt of increased costs to pay for the program, and they don’t like it.

Larson tried to comfort his caucus by reminding them that H.202 does not address a funding plan, define a benefits package or establish reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals, as if this is a good thing. But it is this very lack of specificity is exactly what has Vermonters worried.

If Bertrand is right, and the obstacles to ultimate passage of single payer are obviously too great and the constituencies opposed too numerous, what’s the point of continuing the charade? Except, of course, to string out those dewy-eyed, energetic members of the Democratic base through the next election cycle.

Shumlin, Larson and the rest know that a single payer system for Vermont is an illusion that will fall like a house of cards under even the most moderate questioning. Their only hope was to avoid those questions for several years. It doesn’t appear to be unfolding that way.