• Health care freedom at risk
    March 18,2012

    Apparently Vermonters for Health Care Freedom is making progress. The fury and frequency of attacks leveled against the organization from advocates of the single-payer takeover of Vermont’s health care system have reached a fever pitch. Single-payer zealots seem most offended by the use of the word “freedom” in the organization’s name. Freedom, they claim, is their goal. In fact, at least one of the single-payer advocates is so incensed he has publicly called for media outlets to refuse to carry VHCF’s paid messages. Apparently nothing protects freedom like censorship.

    Through a combination of the Vermont single-payer “Green Mountain Care” plan and the federal Obama Care program, the government will: 1) mandate that you purchase health insurance; 2) outlaw competition in the insurance market and force you to buy insurance from a single, state-selected provider; 3) limit your choice of plans down to a handful of options, which the state has designed and specified; and 4) — and this is a real beauty — not tell you how much this will cost or how it will all be paid for until it is too late to choose a different approach.

    The health care system is vast and complex. It is so complicated that even those who spend their lives working in it profess only partial knowledge. Green Mountain Care is poised to unleash comprehensive reforms across all aspects of the system, from how doctors are compensated, to how payment is made, to how hospital budgets are approved and managed, to the way health care insurance is offered, managed and paid for. There is no corner of this massive $5.3 billion per year industry that will remain unchanged under Green Mountain Care.

    Is it unreasonable to urge our governor and lawmakers to be cautious, consider all options, proceed in a stepwise fashion and listen to the concerns of health care providers and consumers? And given that the state of Vermont attempted without success to operate the 54-bed state hospital, is it unreasonable to question whether this state can successfully assume near-total control of the entire health care industry?

    In a recent meeting between Anya Rader Wallack and doctors at the Rutland Regional Medical Center, one doctor observed, “What you want is a rationing system, which is something that can be done in a rationale way but only if physicians are the ones coming up with it.” Wallack did not disagree. In another meeting in St. Albans between doctors, dentists and legislators, a show of hands was requested for doctors who had started to investigate moving their practice out of state as a result of the passage of the Vermont reform law last year. Half of the 25 doctors in the room raised a hand.

    Any reform that drives doctors out of state and scares away those who might want to practice here cannot increase access. Any reform that relies upon rationing threatens our health care freedom.

    Unfortunately, the governor has the votes in the Legislature to impose Green Mountain Care regardless of the risks. They are under no obligation to consider alternatives or address the objections of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, or anyone else who disagrees with this reckless plan. Only if enough Vermonters become aware of what is happening and demand a different direction will our leaders be forced to slow down and listen.

    Jeff Wennberg is the executive director of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom — www.vthealthcarefreedom.org.

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