Republicans in House and Senate Oppose Healthcare Plan

By Caitie Banfield

As the legislature prepares to return for another session and the Green Mountain Health Care Board selected by the Governor is getting to work, it is important to know what concerns some Republicans in the House and Senate have about the reform, now know as Act 48.

Veteran Senator Randy Brock stated that the “law passed doesn’t answer many fundamental questions.” What does it cost? Who will it pay? What does it cover? Who will be covered? The Green Mountain Care Board is responsible for answering these questions.

Senator Brock mentioned how parts of Act 48, such as the health care exchange the new law creates, mandated by the federal healthcare law known as ‘Obamacare’ leave a questionable future for Vermont’s health care. Brock believes that it is “highly likely” that there will be a new Republican president in 2012. As well as a Republican dominated house and senate. The likely result of this change would be for Obama healthcare to die. It is also possible that, whoever wins the election, the Supreme Court declares ‘Obamacare’ unconstitutional. If Obama healthcare dies it leads to more questions about what impact that would have on Vermont’s healthcare.

Freshman Representative Jim Eckhardt will return in January to complete his first full term in the house. Eckhardt was assigned to the House Health Care Committee, right in the middle of the action. However, Eckhardt’s expectations for how things would unflold in the legislature weren’t what he expected. “There was no discussion,” Eckhardt said, nor was there time for revisions/modifications to the legislative language of the bill.

According to Representative Eckhardt the House should have answered all of the questions that have risen since the bill went through before it was put out to the public. Also Eckhardt thought businesses should have played a more significant role during the creation of the bill so they could give their ‘two cents’ and at the same time ensure there would be minimal uncertainty.

Governor Shumlin signed Act 48 into law knowing that there were many questions left unanswered. Cbsnews.com quoted Governor Shumlin saying, “I realize people have legitimate questions about how single payer will be financed and operated.” Eckhardt was adamant about these ‘legitimate questions’ being answered before the bill was signed. It seems reasonable to have answers to these questions.

Eckhardt, a business owner and former chair of the Rutland County Business Coalition is much in tune with the business world and its needs. The business world shares much of the same concern as Eckhardt and Brock. As Eckhardt said, “business hates uncertainty.” Eckhardt expressed that “we should have taken the time to figure all this out.”

Governor Shumlin justified leaving the ‘legitimate questions’ unanswered by saying if the public was told how much it will cost and who it will pay, the bill would get picked apart and lose all life.

Cbsnews.com also quoted Governor Shumlin saying, “Input from providers, businesses and health care consumers will be especially important to assuring that our reforms are good for our health care systems and good for our economy.”

Eckhardt thought the House should have taken two years or however long it would take to get the answers to these questions by bringing in business people and others for discussion for input on the bill. Instead the bill was according to Eckhardt, “‘ram rodded’ through.” Eckhardt thought they should have sat down and hammered this out, answering all questions, getting input from providers, businesses and consumers and make a solid plan that people could look at and say ‘yes, this is clear.’

In addition, Senator Brock finds it crazy that the unelected, five member Green Mountain Care Board is responsible for making all the decisions for Vermont’s healthcare. According to the Green Mountain Care Board Member Job Descriptions listed on the humanresources.vermont.gov website, the board is responsible for “controlling the growth of health care costs by revamping the way that hospitals and doctors get paid.” The board will also submit a “work plan” to the Legislature where recommendations are made to the Legislature “about changes to current rules relating to managed-care organizations in order to ensure the rules fit with payment reform pilots.” (Additional responsibilities of the GMC Board can be found at humanresources.vermont.gov)

The Green Mountain Care board was selected in early September by Governor Shumlin. Anya Rader Wallack, formerly Governor Shumlin’s special assistant for heathcare, was selected by the governor to chair the board, a body that was supposed to take the politics out of healthcare decisions.

Caitie Banfield is a student at Norwich University interning with True North Reports