by Rob Roper
VPIRG, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Vermont Health Care for All, and the Workers Center recently held a joint conference call with a number of activists to discuss and coordinate strategy for keeping the momentum going on single payer healthcare legislation. During the call, the groups laid out the messaging strategy and talking points that will be coming to a town square near you.
Single payer is good for businesses?
Advocates for a single payer system have often claimed that one advantage of a single payer plan is that it gets the burden of insuring employees off the backs of employers. Dan Barlow, Policy Director for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, echoed this line.
We believe this will be good for business in Vermont…. It’s essentially an economic development bill disguised as healthcare reform. We’re going on a path that essentially de-couples insurance from employment. Employers will no longer have a say in what he health care plans are for their employees because everyone will have insurance as a right of being a resident of Vermont. Also, when we de-couple insurance from employment, this will really allow the business community to grow and prosper.
Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, who is a small business owner himself, shared a different perspective during an interview on Common Sense Radio:
The governor has tried to sell me on the issue, and he said why wouldn’t you want to do this when we’re trying to take the burden off the backs of business owners? You’re a business owner? I say, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, number one. I want to know what it’s going to cost me, and I want to know the entire cost. But, also, I want to know what you’re offering me for that cost, because if I have to get supplemental insurance on top of that – if the base plan my employees will utilize is not as good as the plan they have now, they’re going to want more. And, if I have to supply that, I’m back in the insurance game. It never took the burden off of me, especially if I have also have to pay an employer [payroll] tax.”
In fact, a government run health care system subsidized by a payroll tax of 14% would be devastating to many small and micro businesses that presently cannot afford health insurance for their employees. It would be a serious deterrent for large self-insured employers who could be forced to pay twice for their employees. (Note, if these self-employed ERISA companies are exempt from the payroll tax, the rate on remaining businesses would have to rise to over 20% to pay for the program.)
Doctors will love this?
At one point during the call, Dr. Deb Richter of Vermont Health Care for All stated, “I know you heard a lot during the legislative session about physicians being opposed to a single payer system, but in the primary care workforce that is largely not true.”
While Richter is correct in pointing out that the online survey conducted by Dr. George Till (D-Jericho) was not scientifically valid (and was monkeyed with at least by supporters of single payer), it did indicate that 46% of physicians opposed the plan and that more than a quarter would “leave the state” if it becomes law.
Even if these numbers are skewed one way or another, ANY decrease in our medical care population would have a negative impact on the quality and availability of care. At a forum in Rutland, Rep. Peter Fagan (R-Rutland) recounted his experience at a Fletcher Allen conference with sixteen internists participating. According to Fagan’s account they were asked, “How many of you are seeking licensure in another state?” All sixteen said they were. Asked how many were seeking jobs in another state, fourteen of the sixteen said they were.
Rep. Jim Eckhardt shared a letter he received from the Chair of the Department of Surgery at Rutland Regional Medical Center. It read:
Due to these circumstances [the content and implications of the health care bill] I… have recommended all surgical specialists under the age of fifty-five at Rutland Regional Medical Center to get active medical licenses in other states. I have an active license in Florida, and I’m looking at Michigan and New Hampshire. We don’t want to leave, but we need to be ready to be able to depart promptly to a state that values our services….
Cass Gekas, Health Care Advocate for VPIRG claimed that adoption of a single payer system would lead to a dynamic where, “Your doctor gets to spend more time with you.”
There is no basis for this claim. The system will increase the number of patients in the system and likely decrease the number of doctors while the number of minutes in a day remains the same. Simple math dictates that patients will have less time with their doctors under single payer. Evidence from Massachusetts, where their efforts at health reform are imploding, bears this out.
Gekas also stated, “The bottom line for us is that its really one of the biggest issues here is that our healthcare system at the moment is about profits rather than delivering healthcare.”
She ignores the fact that of the three health insurance providers left in Vermont, the two largest, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and MVP are both non-profit organizations. The only for-profit provider is Cigna, who handles the state employees. Even if the scheme is successful in eliminating two of these providers, Blue Cross would still remain, but with a monopoly stake in the market.
Evil opponents spewing lies?
The groups’ big fear is that opponents of single payer healthcare will employ tactics “similar to those seen in DC” over Obamacare. “Scaring people with misinformation.” These four groups claim they are not afraid to answer hard questions, but if that’s the case, they, like the rest of us, would be demanding to know… how much is it going to cost? Who’s going to pay for it? How’s it going to be paid for? What’s going to be covered? Can I keep my present insurance? What’s going to happen to providers and their compensation and reimbursement? Etc. and so on.
The entire conference call is posted on line HERE.
Read Part 1 in this series, A look at their tactics, HERE.
Read Part 2 in this series, A look at their message HERE.