Newsletter – June 8, 2012

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom

Romney Win Good for Single Payer?

An analysis story in Politico regarding the implications of various Supreme Court decisions on the fate of ObamaCare and presidential politics contains an interesting promise from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at an appearance before the National Association of Independent Business:

“Mitt Romney has pledged to knock [ObamaCare] down on Day One of his presidency, all the better to distract attention from his passage of a landmark mandate bill in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, Romney said he’d offer all 50 states the chance to get a waiver out of the health law and said he’d try to pass legislation through Congress.”

If this were to happen it would relieve the Shumlin Administration of the need to wait until 2017 to implement Vermont’s single payer government monopoly plan. The delay is the result of an ObamaCare requirement that states wait until 2017 before waivers can be granted. Not only would Romney’s day one waiver speed up single payer in Vermont, it would conceivably relieve the state of the obligation to create the health benefits exchange. How the waiver might affect ObamaCare’s funding of state reform efforts is unclear.

The full Politico analysis piece is here: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77192.html

***

VT Health Exchange Law Issue in Governor’s Race

VPR carried a story predicting that the recently passed health benefits exchange law, H.559, will be a clear point of difference between Governor Shumlin and his expected Republican rival, Senator Randy Brock. Shumlin insisted on the requirement that private insurance outside the exchange be outlawed. Brock supports the exchange as proposed by the federal Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), but opposed the Vermont version in large part because of this specific provision and the fact it is being used to force nearly all Vermonters into a single payer system.

“The concept of providing a uniform marketplace that’s logical so that people can go in like an Expedia website in order to choose from a wide variety of plans to fit a particular individual or particular employer’s needs that makes a great deal of sense,” said Brock. “What we’re doing is we’re creating this on line supermarket with the goal to ultimately have only one product on the shelf.”

The full VPR story is here: http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/94768/health-care-exchange-likely-to-be-issue-in-governo/

***

Shumlin on Single Payer: California and New York Next? 

VTDigger carried a similar story that sought comments from a diverse group of folks on both sides. Unique to their coverage was this quote from a speech Governor Shumlin gave to the Vermont Press Association on May 31st:

“You’re going to hear a lot about, in the coming months, the unknowns, how frightening this is, how scary it is, how we don’t know exactly what the Green Mountain Health Care Board is designing, we want the answers now, and if we don’t get them that’s not fair and it’s scary that we don’t know what’s going on and it’s scaring businesses and others away,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot of big interests coming, the insurance companies and others who want to ensure that we fail, not because they really care about the little state of Vermont, but because they know that if the pony gets out of the shed in the state of Vermont, the stallion could get out of the shed in California and New York and other big states where governors say to me ‘Wow! We want to know more about what you’re doing there, because it looks really interesting.’” 

The full VTDigger story is here: http://vtdigger.org/2012/06/01/vermont-gop-attacks-shumlins-health-care-plan-brock-pitches-proposal-of-his-own. 

A video of the Governor’s address is available here, with health care remarks starting at around 7 minutes, 45 seconds in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ok_nKSXB3Y

***

Healthcare reform Workshop held at UVM

Vermonters for Economic Health and Green Mountain Patriots sponsored a workshop on Vermont healthcare reform titled Healthcare 101: Patient-driven healthcare in the era of health reform on June 6 at the UVM Aiken Center. Presenters included VHCF Exec Director Jeff Wennberg, Dr. Robert Letovsky, Dr. Robert Emmons, Dr. Dan McCauliffe and Bob Gaydos. Over 50 people turned out and most stayed late with many questions and much discussion. Look for stories in Seven Days and the Burlington Free Press. Burlington Channel 17 Town Meeting Television recorded the event and will broadcast it on the following dates and times, or you can watch the program on-line now by clicking the link below:

1 Tuesday June 12, 10:00 PM

2 Wednesday June 13, 3:00 AM

3 Wednesday June 13, 9:00 AM

Channel 17 coverage: http://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/healthcare-101-patient-driven-healthcare-era-healthcare-reform

For a PDF of Jeff Wennberg’s presentation click here: http://vthealthcarefreedom.org/sites/default/files/06-06-12%20UVM%20VHCF%20Presentation.pdf

***

Maine’s Patient-Centered Reform Success Draws Attention 

The Foundry, the online publication of the Heritage Foundation, presented another report on the progress that Maine has made in reducing the cost of health insurance by instituting reforms opposite those adopted by Vermont. This has been reported here in previous issues, but The Foundry took the added step of reviewing the writings of two of Maine’s reform architects, Tarren Bragdon, former Chief Executive Officer of The Maine Heritage Policy Center and Joel Allumbaugh, Director of Health Care Policy at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. Bragdon and Allumbaugh wrote:

“Maine’s experience with the costly failures of a big-government, command-and-control approach to health care reform is a salutary warning of the likely adverse effects of similar provisions in Obamacare. In contrast, Maine’s new approach to health care reform shows other states and Congress how to chart a better course toward more innovative and effective health care reform using proven patient-centered, market-based designs.”

The full Foundry article with links to the Bragdon and Allumbaugh paper is here: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/07/health-care-reform-in-maine-reversing-obamacare-lite

***

Ontario Docs Must Pay for ‘Medically Unnecessary’ Tests

Vermont’s health care reform is modeled after the Canadian system in hope that we can control spending, but apparently no one in Vermont government is watching how well the Canadian global budget system actually works. For those of our readers who are interested, it doesn’t. The Toronto Sun reported on another Canadian innovation to reign in out of control health care spending. One wonders whether the Green Mountain Care Board will adopt this:

“Family doctors are getting letters advising them they’ll be on the hook for payments for diagnostic tests they order that are later deemed medically unnecessary. . .

“It’s all about saving money,” [Dr. David] Austin said. “The ministry has run out of money to fund the increasing cost of health care and they’re desperately looking for ways to cut the cost of health care in Ontario.” Family physicians are upset because the ministry is imposing new rules without telling them how they’ll be enforced. Just who’s making the decisions about what’s medically necessary and what’s not?””

At least in Vermont we know the answer to the last question: the Green Mountain Care Board.

The full Toronto Sun story is here: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/05/24/patients-not-well-served-by-ontario-health-plans

***

GMC Board Chair Blames Locals for Rutland Rehab Unit Closure

Many media outlets carried the story about the decision of the Rutland Regional Medical Center Board to close the hospital’s in-patient rehabilitation unit, and when gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock held a press conference on the hospital lawn they all showed up again, along with dozens of doctors, nurses and staff. WCAX’s coverage reported:

“We’re here in Rutland today to see one of the unintended consequences of the healthcare direction that we’re on right now,” said Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock Monday evening.

Brock, flanked by dozens of hospital staff, blamed the state’s health oversight body and the Governor Shumlin’s leadership toward a single-payer plan for the proposed closure of the hospital’s rehab facility. He added that the possible loss of 40 jobs would only further hurt an area struggling with high unemployment.”

Green Mountain Care Board chair Anya Rader-Wallack responded to the charge by describing the hospital’s action as a “local decision.” Newsletter begs to differ. While the decision to close the rehab unit was made locally, it was the GMC Board requiring $7 million in cuts to the hospital’s revenues that precipitated it. And for the record, when all the folks in Rutland who used to receive these services locally start going to hospitals hours away, how does this action actually save money?

The full WCAX story is here: http://www.wcax.com/story/18700674/brock-blames-rehab-center-closure-on-health-reform

***

Fee-for-Service Returns to Ontario Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Ontario has a budget crisis, and since about half of the province’s spending is for single-payer government monopoly health care, health services are about to get a lot worse, according to Ontario Health Coalition advocates, as reported by CBC News in Ottawa. The government intends to restrict spending growth to 2.1% annually over the next three years, as compared to the average 6.1% over the last eight. In addition, Ontario will reform their decades-old global budgeting to a patient-based funding model, known here as fee-for-service.

“[The Health Ministry is] reducing lump-sum payments to 91 of the province’s 152 public hospitals and will reimburse them instead for the types and volume of treatments they deliver. The same goes for nursing homes and community-care access centres.”

Vermont has experienced lower spending increases than Ontario but is abandoning fee-for-service in favor of Canadian-style global budgets. Go figure.

The full CBC story is here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/04/02/toronto-ontario-hospitals-cuts.html