The discussions about where Vermont fits in the great scheme of things has reached levels of self delusion that are dangerous. It is routine for our highly titled leaders, from the governor to our senators to the spokespersons for various organizations dedicated to saving the planet from the humans, as well as saving the humans from each other, to proclaim that Vermont must be the laboratory that shows the country and the world how to deal with all our ills.
The problem with all of this grandiose rhetoric is that the words sound so good that the people proposing grand solutions to great problems begin to believe their own nonsense. The worst offenders are those who decided that Vermont should be able to outdo the wing-nuts in Washington and pass a health care reform law that would be better than the Affordable Care Act. We would show the country how to provide more care to more people sooner rather than later. The result was "Act 48: An act relating to a universal and unified health system." This passed in 2011.
Gov. Shumlin didn’t make Obama’s mistakes by promising that people could keep their health care plans if it suited them, or that costs would be lower due to increased competition among insurance companies. Instead, Vermont became the only state which made buying insurance through internet exchanges mandatory for individuals. No competition there. Also, and this is the real grand scheme, Act 48 provided that the exchanges would only exist for three years. They will disappear and be replaced by a "Single Payer" system on January 1, 2017. All Vermonters will have their health needs provided by "Green Mountain Care," a newly created state agency. (Federal employees and military families using Tri-Care would not be required to switch to Green Mountain Care.)
All of this sounds enticing until you consider several factors. Vermont is already considered to be one of the healthiest states in the union. Vermont also has the fewest uninsured persons of all the states, about 43,000. In spite of these facts we have completely disrupted a health care system that provided good care to most of our people and replaced it with who knows what. Vermont now spends, in actual dollars, more on our uninsured than any other state. We spend $167,000,000 for 43,000 people. Massachusetts spends $134, 400,000 for 272,000 people. Connecticut spends $164,000,000 for 284,000 uninsured. Most of this money comes to us in the form of federal grants. Realistically, who will pay if the federal money dries up or is reduced? What if the aid stays the same but costs increase? Given the way our Congress deals with budgets, plus the odds that there will be other calls for aid, who can predict that the money will continue at its present levels?
Now let’s get to the cost of care for the rest of the population that is not uninsured but will be vacuumed into the Green Mountain Care plan. Current estimates are that these costs will be $2.2 billion annually. This money will not be covered by federal aid. The money will have to be raised by taxation. Gov. Shumlin was required by law to make public his plan as to how we will raise this money by January of 2013. So far he has refused to make any of his ideas public. Perhaps he doesn’t have any clue as to how to pay for his grand scheme. Perhaps he is afraid to lay it out before the election in November. The state loses either way. We must allow ourselves to be scammed by an unscrupulous charlatan who thinks we are too stupid to notice, or, like obedient sheep we will allow ourselves to be shorn of what assets we have left after the school boards pick our pockets shamelessly.
It only hurts if you think about it.
Weiland Ross is a Banner columnist.