Republicans ask Vermonters to speak to legislators about health care bill

by Angela Chagnon

Rep. Don Turner addresses the media

“We need your help,” began Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton) at a press conference called by Republican leaders. Expressing frustration that proponents of a single payer system are not answering legislators’ basic questions about funding and implementation, Turner and his colleagues asked Vermonters start asking questions directly.

“We’re calling upon all Vermonters to contact the Governor and the legislators during the Town Meeting break to express concern, ask questions, and to demand that they carry out the due diligence that is necessary in such an important piece of legislation.”

Turner said that the Governor’s healthcare bill includes some necessary measures, “but it goes way beyond what is immediately needed and threatens the system as we know it today. We cannot and should not ignore all the good in our current healthcare system in order to become the first in the country to become a single-payer government controlled system.”

Vermont was ranked number one in 2009 for access, prevention and treatment, avoidable hospital usage costs, equity, and healthy lives.

“We can’t really improve that,” Turner stated. “We don’t want to mess that up.”

Turner said that the only problem with Vermont’s healthcare system was cost containment. “We should focus on the cost drivers in the healthcare field by encouraging the streamlining of services, addressing the cost shift by government underfunding of Medicare and Medicaid programs, and proposing tort reform.”

Patti Komline (R-Dorset) pointed out that House Republicans had challenged the legislation creating Catamount in 2006, questioning its long-term sustainability. Catamount has been declared a failure by Governor Shumlin and is now, just five years later, being rolled over into VHAP.

“It’s unreasonable and it’s unacceptable to shift this failure onto the backs of healthcare providers,” Komline said. “We’re concerned that the proposal we’re looking at now will do even worse.”

Komline asked legislators to demand answers as to where the money to pay for the Governor’s proposal would come from. “We need answers, and we need you to show us the money,” she said.

Rep. Charles Shaw (R-Rutland) spoke on behalf of the business community, citing concerns about the effect of the Governor’s legislation on small business owners. He paraphrased remarks made by a high-wage employer regarding Dr. William Hsaio’s recommendations for a single-payer system.

“The plan puts the burden for providing healthcare for everyone in the state on the backs of livable-wage employers, creating a gigantic, distinct disadvantage for high-wage employers to remain in Vermont,” Shaw read. “It takes choice out of the employers’ hands, and one plan does not fit all.”

During the question and answer period, onw reporter remarked, “I can’t help but think of the federal debate, where people confronted in often very vitriolic ways, their representatives when they came home. Is that what you’re calling people to do?”

“No,” replied Turner. “We’re calling on people to ask questions, share their concerns with their representatives so that when they come back here, when the debate is taking place, we will have that information on the floor.”