Opponents of single payer proposal rally at State House

by Angela Chagnon

The grassroots group “Vermonters for Healthcare Freedom” packed the Room 10 of the State House on March 16. The event featured a panel of speakers to discuss the single payer system and answer questions from attendees.

The panel consisted of Pat Nowak, a small business owner from Williston, Dr. Edward Pomieter, an anesthesiologist and small business owner with practices in St. Albans and South Burlington, Senator Randy Brock (R-Franklin) and John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Nowak expressed her frustration with Governor Shumlin’s plan to dismantle the current healthcare system and replace it with a single payer system. “I support efforts to cover all the remaining uninsured and underinsured in the state of Vermont with a quality plan,” she said. “We all want that. But by no means do I say to you I want to see the demolition of what we have in place.”

Citing the state’s $170 million deficit and the $2 billion underfunded liability in pension plans, she continued, “I’m not sure, how in the state we are living in now, that we can create a system without knowing what the costs are.”

“This is largely, I think, a discussion about money,” said Dr. Pomieter. He pointed out that anybody can walk into an emergency room to get care and could not be refused. “So this is not really so much a debate about access, but how to pay for access.”

Dr. Pomieter declared that Medicare and Medicaid are already underfunded. “They do not pay enough to cover the costs for a physician to take care of that patient.”

Of the single payer system, Pomieter said that the proposed system was “a fascist medical system”.

“Fascism is defined as ‘private ownership with public control’,” he stated. “I feel that that’s a very dangerous precedent for us to set for ourselves.”

Senator Randy Brock compared the Governor’s single payer proposals to being forced to buy a car that has not yet been designed, at a price that the salesman won’t reveal (see video). Brock predicted that the bill would pass the House, but hoped that the Senators would look at it very carefully before voting on it.

John McClaughry remarked, “Single payer government regulates who is eligible to receive healthcare, who must provide it, what they must provide, how much they will be paid for it, and who must pay and how much they pay and in what form. This is a very large administrative challenge, leaving aside any ideological issues.”

Rally and informational briefing was scheduled to last an hour and a half, but ran on for over two hours.

View highlights from the rally