Newsletter – August 3, 2012

by Vermonters for Health Care Freedom

Shumlin’s $90 Million Irene ‘Oops’ Chump Change Compared to Single Payer

Governor Shumlin appears to have gotten himself into another self-inflicted pickle, and when the governor gets into a pickle, the rest of us pay the price. This one pertains to his assurances that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would fund $90 million in Irene disaster recovery support; assurances that formed the basis of the state budget. Revelations this week confirm that no such assurances were offered by FEMA, placing the state budget in severe jeopardy.

What does this have to do with health care reform? Everything. The governor has provided an unending stream of assurances about his single payer government monopoly health care reform, asking us to trust him while he spends $120 million implementing this scheme and skillfully evades any discussion of where Vermont will find the $3 billion needed to fund it.

The $90 million FEMA misrepresentation is chump change compared to the cost of Green Mountain Care. Legislators, reporters and all Vermonters should take the FEMA debacle as a warning: Demand an accounting of Green Mountain Care NOW.

The Times Argus ran this editorial on the FEMA debacle on August second: http://www.timesargus.com/article/20120802/OPINION01/708029933/1021

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British Columbians Sue for Right to Seek Private Health Care 

Four residents of British Columbia, Canada, are suing the B.C. Medical Services Commission, the Minister of Health Services and the attorney-general for the right to seek and pay for medical services outside the provincial government health care system. In Canada, private health insurance is outlawed and with few exceptions Canadians are required to receive care through government controlled hospitals and clinics.

The Canadian patients received care at a clinic owned by Dr. Brian Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association, who is pushing the litigation. The Vancouver Sun reports:

“B.C. effectively imposes the death penalty on patients through its policy of rationed care,” Day said, at a press conference Tuesday . . . Day expects it will go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and ultimately reshape the health care system. “Those guilty of supporting or enforcing this legislation [pre-venting access to private care] while propagating the myth that such laws are good, should reflect on whether they are guilty of complicity in the causation of … deaths,” Day said, noting a poll of doctors found one-quarter had patients who died while waiting for care.

He also referred to a landmark 2005 Quebec case (Chaoulli) in which the Supreme Court of Canada stated: “The evidence shows that delays in the public health care system are wide-spread and patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care.””

The Canadian system is the model for Vermont’s single payer Green Mountain Care.

The Vancouver Sun coverage is here: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Suit+fights+right+access+private+care/7022275/story.html

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Vermont Leads the Nation in HSA Enrollment

Notwithstanding the Great Expectations for Governor Shumlin’s single payer health care reform, Vermont led all 50 states in the percentage of health savings account (HSA) insurance plan enrollments. As of January, 2012, Vermont enrollments stood at 19.9% of the total market. Minnesota was second at 14.3%. National HSA enrollments have grown from less than 1 million in 2005 to 13.5 million today. This represents an increase of 18% since 2011.

HSA’s are patient-centered, market-driven plans credited with significantly reducing health care spending growth by a RAND Corporation study. VHCF has argued that the success of HSA’s in Vermont is partially responsible for the recent overall drop in health care spending here.

Green Mountain Care, the governor’s single payer health care reform, would dismantle HSA and similar market-based options in favor of a government monopoly program similar to that found in Canadian provinces.

John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog contains a nice summary of the Center for Policy and Research census report here: http://healthblog.ncpa.org/hsa-enrollment-keeps-growing/

The full census report is available here: http://www.ahip.org/HSA2012/

The RAND study can be found here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/external_publications/EP201100208.html

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Doctor Shortage Worsened by ACA 

The New York Times ran a commentary predicting that the ACA will make the doctor shortage worse. Citing a combination of increased patient loads, accelerated physician retirements and inadequate medical school graduation rates, the authors conclude that universal care may result in decreased access to care for the vast majority of Americans.

In Vermont, businesses recruiting employees from out of state have to call and beg primary care physicians to take new families, otherwise they can hunt for up to a year for find an opening – and that is the situation today. The uncertainty associated with Vermont’s experiment in government monopoly health care is making doctor recruitment even more difficult, and accelerated retirements and out migration are serious concerns.

The New York Times commentary is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/health/policy/too-few-doctors-in-many-us-communities.html?_r=2

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Ad Blitz for Single Payer Begins

The Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported that the predicted massive television and radio advertising campaign promoting single payer and funded by the Service Employees International Union is now under way. The ads feature a doctor and a businessperson extolling the virtues of government monopoly health care. VHCF’s Jeff Wennberg weighed in:

“The governor supports this. The Legislature supported this. We’ve passed two laws to enact it. Why does this organization feel it’s necessary to spend significant sums of money to convince Vermonters that single payer is a good idea?” Wennberg said. “It says to me Vermonters remain justifiably skeptical about this whole reform idea.”

Wennberg said ads celebrate the potential benefits of single payer while conveniently skipping past its potential pitfalls. Before people can judge whether single payer is a good idea, Wennberg said, they need to know how much it’s going to cost, who’s going to pay for it and what kinds of benefits the system will provide.

“And those are precisely the kinds of questions that these ads do not answer,” Wennberg said. “Vermonters deserve answers to those fundamental questions before they’re asked to sign on, but no one so far is willing to give them.”

The Vermont Today version of the article is supposed to be available at the link below but at press time the link appeared to be broken. It is provided here in the event it is repaired: http://www.vermonttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2FRH%2F20120731%2FNEWS03%2F707319881

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London Olympics Opening Ceremony Promotes Socialized Medicine

Several commentators and news reporters took issue with the political love letter to Britain’s National Health Service delivered via one of the weirder segments of the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.

John Fund’s offering from National Review Online is here: http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/312573/britain-s-nhs-no-fun-and-games-john-fund

And Townhall.com offered a pithy comment with links to UK press accounts of NHS horror stories: http://townhall.com/tipsheet/carolplatt%20liebau/2012/07/29/britains_nhs_is_nsh_not_so_hot

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Single Payer ‘Myths’ 

Reason.com offers a short item explaining how the efforts at government health care reform have led to the single payer experiment in Vermont.

In a Canadian-style single-payer system, lines are longer, cost controls delay adoption of new technologies, and heart patients report lower satisfaction. As for the alleged simplicity of a federal single-payer system, Henderson argued that it was a myth. “It’s ludicrous to assume that any government-run system, no matter how lean its initial design, would remain bureaucracy-free,” he wrote.” 

The article correctly points out that Vermont has thus far not addressed how the plan will be paid for. http://reason.com/archives/2012/05/21/obamacare-the-prequel#commentcontainer

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New England Journal of Medicine Offers Prescriptions for Health Care Reform

The August 1 edition of NEJM offers perspectives on health care reform from the left and the right. The article titled “Bending the Cost Curve through Market-Based Incentives” should be required reading (along with anything written by John Goodman) for those seeking workable alternatives to government-centered reforms.

“Better incentives, not fiscal targets, are the source of appropriate reductions in the cost of health care. If competition can keep Medicare spending within the bounds set by the targets, then the targets are unnecessary. If not, price controls will do no better. . .

Well-functioning competitive markets are required for these types of decentralized approaches to work effectively. Objective, understandable information needs to be available so that consumers can make informed decisions about their choice of health plans. The plans need to be able to adjust their benefit offerings to respond to changes in consumer demand. This could be facilitated by public and private health insurance exchanges without limiting what plans can offer and what consumers may buy. . .

Health insurance exchanges promote competition and informed consumer choice but need not have the heavy regulation imposed by the ACA that limits the types of health plans that are made available. Consumers should have the right to buy less and pay less, if they choose to do so. State regulations, including benefit mandates and limitations on the scope of medical practice, also artificially raise the cost of health care. Reforming the medical liability system could also reduce the use of services and lower spending somewhat, but the distorted economic incentives of fee-for-service payments will still dominate.”

The NEJM article is here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsb1207996