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.
Cass Gekas, Health Care Advocate for VPIRG summed it up in a sound bite: “The bill is a first step in a multi-year process that’s going to help us build a publicly financed health care system that covers everyone, is affordable for families and businesses, and provides quality healthcare to every Vermonter without breaking the bank.”
None on the call addressed how exactly the state would be able to cover more people, maintain or raise the quality of care and pay less, but did acknowledge that many difficult questions about the concept remained unanswered and that “controlling healthcare costs and providing universal access is not a problem that anyone has been able to solve.”
This notion seemed to give the group a bit of a thrill. “If we are successful,” said Gekas,” I think the key thing here is we are poised to lead the nation,” which is about as comforting to a rational person as the argument, if we’re the first to survive going over the falls in a barrel we’ll be famous! However, other goals outlined by the speakers during the call make the financial viability of the plan — remember, they’re pledging to do this “without breaking the bank” – highly unlikely.
For example, when asked about dental care, Gekas responded, “What I would say about dental care is that up until now it has really been seen as icing on the cake. We at VPIRG think its really important that we get to a place where people have access to that and we’ll be working with Vermonters to make sure that to the extent possible [dental] will be included in the health care package.”
Also of concern in regard to costs, Dr. Deb Richter made a curious statement: “But we do know this, the amount we’re spending right now is more than enough for us to have every possible thing you could ever want or ever need. We know – there’s study after study – that we could afford a comprehensive benefits package with existing spending.” This is in direct contradiction to the findings of the Hsiao Report, which recommended against a comprehensive package as something we could not afford. Hsiao’s numbers are highly debatable. Richter is living in Fantasy Land.
One has to conclude that as this health care legislation evolves these organizations will lobby for any number of bells and whistles that will, in fact, “break the bank” if adopted. Since the governor came onto the call to acknowledge how much he owed these groups for getting him his signature campaign promise, when push comes to shove, taxpayers had better beware.
Richter did, however, hint at how costs would be contained under this system. Asked about the high cost of treatment at end of life, Richter responded, “We need to look at the health and the needs of the whole population and invest in only what is necessary. And, right now what we have is too much technology needed by the population….We as a society have to decide how much we want to spend on health care, how much we want available.”
Of course “we” going forward is the people on this call. The rest of us in the “population” need to decide if we want VPIRG, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, etc. deciding how much health care is available to us, and what’s just “too much technology.”
The entire conference call is posted on line HERE.
Read Part 1 in this series, A look at their tactics, HERE.
Look for Part 3 in this series, Deconstructing their talking points, in the next edition of True North Reports.