Two bills call for answers on healthcare BEFORE the next election

by Rob Roper

MONTPELIER: Representative Jim Eckhardt (R-Chittenden) in the House and Senator Randy Brock (R-Franklin) have proposed

Sen. Randy Brock

bills (H.539 and S.163 respectively) that would compel the Green Mountain Care Board to provide some answers to the many critical questions surrounding Act 48 and the Administration’s quest to impose a universal and, ultimately, a single payer healthcare system in Vermont.

The two nearly identical bills are simple in their objectives. They propose to move from January 15, 2013 to September 15, 2012 the due date for the administration’s recommendations for financing Green Mountain Care and the Vermont health benefit exchange. Their reasoning is equally simple. “The public has a right to hear and understand the proposed financing plans in advance of the November 2012 election, in which the future direction of Vermont’s health care planning is likely to be a major issue for debate.

What many Vermonters are eager to learn, exactly, is how this new healthcare system will be paid for,

Rep. Jim Eckhardt

what taxes will be imposed to cover a bill that will be in excess of $5.3 billion, what the benefits package we’re buying with all this money will look like, how healthcare providers will be paid, and how the new system might affect our doctor/patient relationships. These are not small questions.

The post-election January 2013 date codified in Act 48 by Democratic supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature (no Republicans in the House voted for the bill, and only one Republican Senator) was certainly political in nature, and, given that those Democratic supermajorities are still in control, Republican legislators alone do not have the numbers to force the change.

Encouragingly, Eckhardt’s House bill has at least some bipartisan support. Of the four sponsors, two are Democrats, Cynthia Browning of Arlington, an economist by trade, and Dr. George Till, the legislature’s only physician. However, given the unbalanced nature of legislature, it would likely take a massive grassroots outcry to force the ultimate passage of H.593/S.163.