House Healthcare Committee passes out H.559
by Rob Roper & Lindsay Smith
Steve Kimbell, the state commissioner of BISHCA, testified before the House Healthcare Committee on Tuesday and said of plans to overhaul the healthcare system Vermont, “[Critics say] this is so complex you’ve gotta screw it up, and I admit that is a possibility. We have to work hard not to.” Two days later, the Committee voted out H.559 without having done that hard work, even to the satisfaction of members of that committee who voted for it.
Paul Poirier (I-Barre) said before the final vote, “I’m just going to say that I’m going to vote for this bill. There’s a lot of it I don’t understand. I don’t know how many times we’ve heard, ‘I don’t know. We don’t know…’ And somehow if it doesn’t live up to expectations, somebody, I’m sure, will slow this process down.”
Who exactly does Rep. Poirier, think is going to slow this down if not himself and the members of this committee who have spent more time trying to understand this (and failing) than anyone else in Montpelier?
He went on. “It’s frustrating to deal with ‘we just don’t know.’ With that, I’m going to vote for it, but I can honestly there’s a lot of it I don’t understand. I understand them in concept, but just don’t know how all the pieces are to work and or fill in until we get some of these big questions – we have a [U.S. Supreme] Court decision this summer, I mean there’s a lot of things out there I don’t know. (Pause.) I’ll be voting yes.” Great.
This is a rather terrifying admission. That ANY representative would vote to move forward with a plan that will ultimately affect the lives of every Vermonter and, as a stepping stone to a single payer system, lead to the more that doubling of the state budget without fully understanding the consequences of what he or she is doing is negligence of an extreme variety. That a majority of them would act this way is collective insanity.
Meanwhile, as the House Healthcare Committee was putting the finishing touches on a bill they don’t understand, a panel of healthcare experts speaking at a forum in Stowe, Vermont, were trying to get to the bottom of the same questions.
Bob Gaydos of Digital Benefit Advisors outlined one critical aspect of what is at stake, “We’re going to be telling all small employers [those with 50 or fewer employees]… that on January 1,2014, every single one of you must be enrolled into a new health plan. I’m not even sure how you technically pull that off. How do you actually do that? How do you actually enroll 120,000 people on the same day? That’s a very scary proposition.”
Gaydos continued, “Think about this… we could be standing here in the fourth [fiscal] quarter of next year incapable of actually getting the people into the system. And even the people getting into the system are paying 20, 30, 40 percent more than they’re paying now. Employers scrambling to figure out what they’re going to do. Not some employers. Every single small employer scrambling to figure out what they’re going to do, all on the same day.”
What could possibly go wrong?
Not everybody on the house healthcare committee donned a lemming suit for this vote. Rep. Jim Eckhardt (R-Chittenden) and Rep. Patti Komline (R-Dorset) voted no. Rep. Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington), the other Republican on the committee, was participating by telephone, but as she was not physically present could not officially cast a vote.
Eckhardt was clearly frustrated with the whole process. “I sat there in amazement we were going to vote out a bill that we have no idea what it’s going to do. No idea. When I ran for office it was not to run on ideology, it was to pass a bill based on facts that would be good for Vermonters. How do you point to the fact that this bill is good for Vermonters, when we don’t have a clue?”
As for his assessment of the final product, Eckhardt was blunt, “I think it was a bag of crap…. We [he and his fellow Republicans] did as much as we could to get the bill changed, but at some point you give up. You’re not going to make that bill better. Not with the people sitting in that room.”
H.559 – “An act relating to healthcare reform implementation” will now go to the full Vermont House of Representatives for passage.
Governor Peter Shumlin stated early in this process that the reason Vermont would succeed with healthcare reform where every other state in the union that has tried has failed is because, we in Vermont are going to put some “Really smart people” in charge. Is this is how really smart people think and act?