By Rob Roper and Angela Chagnon
At his Wednesday press conference, Governor Peter Shumlin was asked if IBM’s opposition to the Single Payer health care bill was a concern to him. His response was, “I think that every businessperson in Vermont has concerns about change. I think that frankly, every hospital and every healthcare provider has concerns about change, because government has gotten this wrong every single time.”
But, this time the tiny state of Vermont is apparently going to get it right. Don’t ask “how,” God forbid. They won’t tell you. But trust us, baby, this is going to be the real thing. Why would businesses, doctors and hospitals and health care providers have any cause to be nervous?
Perhaps because the people putting this program together at the highest levels have no answers to basic questions, and when pressed seem utterly clueless about what it is they are doing.
Following a senate vote supporting collective bargaining rights for public union members, a resolution that she herself sponsored, Senator Jeanette White, chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee (Note: the Government Operations Committee), said in response to a question about how collective bargaining would work under a single payer system, “I don’t know that [public employees would] even have a supplemental policy. That isn’t a given at all. I mean, I haven’t-uh-I-I don’t know. They bargain for their wages, bargain for time off, for-not for retirement benefits, because we set those, for vacations and other benefits. Whether they would be allowed to bargain for-as part of their benefit package, supplemental policy, I don’t know.”
On Wednesday, asked a similar question, Senate President Pro Tem, John Campbell (D-Windsor) answered:
Sen. John Campbell: No…let me..before we start on, is the, nothing’s really been done with the cost containment yet because we’re still trying to figure out exactly what the whole program’s going to look like. But that should have…that was one of the areas that would have to be…so if you’re looking at…uh…so…uh…what it is, and what I said yesterday on VPR was that if we do have a system, it is my desire to make sure that, uh, if a person who buys insurance from the exchange, if they want additional, grander coverage, that they’ll be able to obtain that outside of the exchange. So, uh, and then of course…
TNR: So you want to protect private insurance so they can do that?
JC: Yes. That would come from private insurance. I think this whole thing’s going to be a private-public partnership, I mean that’s really what it’s going to be. So, uh, but as far as trying to factor in the cost, that is something that we’re going to be doing within the next year.
TNR: So you haven’t really anticipated the extra cost of these supplemental…
JC: Well, that cost would be to the, uh, be to the individual. So in other words, if a person wanted to…let’s say that whatever package they choose from, whatever insurance companies are in the agency, uh, are in the exchange, if they say, okay, my basic package does not allow for uh…let’s say chiropractic care, I’m just using that as an example. And they want to go to a chiropractor. They can go to a chiropractor, but they would have to pay, you know, what the full, what the charges would be, so…
TNR: So would unions be able to bargain for these supplemental benefits in addition to the essential package?
JC: Well, first of all, I don’t know where we stand on that because we haven’t gotten to that phase of this, and uh, so, that’s all going to be discussed when we talk about where the, what the, uh, benefits are going to be, the benefits package, who’s going to be available to come in because of course the, uh, anyone with uh…the collective…the unions, or the state employees, uh, you’d have to look and see what their actual contract says. And so those are issues that we’re going to be taking a look at next year.
TNR: Ok. So if that was part of the bill, for instance, public unions could bargain for supplemental benefits, would you support that?
JC: Um…I-I-no-again, I don’t–I think we don’t have enough facts right now to really discuss that, so all I know is there might be a situation where those benef–where there is such a complete package that there’s really nothing out there supplemental in nature that they want to…except for maybe catastrophic care. So, that’s nothing we’ll be able to really address until next year when we start talking about the structure of the, uh, the, uh, system itself.
At a presentation in Shelburne, Rep. Mark Larson, Chairman of the House Health Care Committee, who spearhead for the single payer initiative told the audience that implementing a single payer system would save Vermont $1 trillion over ten years. When a listener asked if Larson had misspoken, “Given that current medical spending in Vermont is approximately $5.2 billion dollars a year, $1 trillion dollars represents 190 years of health care spending at current levels.” Larson stood by the number.
Responding to an email request to clarify from True North Reports, Larson continued to stand by that $1 trillion/10 year claim.
Page 57 of Dr. Hsiao’s final report includes a chart of savings that can be achieved by implementing health care reform. The $1 trillion dollar figure is from that projection and is based on the analysis of the cost of our current system and the cost of a reformed health care system.
Larson provided a link to the report. There is no chart on page 57 (or 56 or 58). What does appear on that page is “VI. SAVINGS FROM MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM.” So, if we somehow missed the potential for $1 trillion in savings over the next ten years, it would apparently have something to do with enacting tort reform… which, though recommended by Dr. Hsiao, is conspicuously not a part of H.202 — the bill Larson was in charge of crafting.
Yes, it’s shocking that, as Governor Shumlin pointed out, government has gotten this wrong every single time.