As any Economics 101 student can tell you, imposing arbitrary spending caps on a given segment of the economy causes a reduction in supply and will, sooner or later, result in an unmet demand. The majority of Vermont’s current policymakers, however, appear to have skipped that class.
In an effort to control ever-escalating costs of medical care, Vermont has imposed “global budgets” on its hospitals. In other words, the five members of the Green Mountain Care Board say, “Here’s your budget for the coming year — that’s all you’re allowed to spend.”
So now Rutland Regional Medical Center is closing its inpatient rehab center, because it cannot continue the services provided in that center within the confines of its “global budget.” As a result, patients in the Rutland area will have to travel 65 miles to Burlington or 45 miles to Windsor to receive services they formerly received in Rutland. And their family members will have to make those trips repeatedly to visit their loved ones.
This is only the beginning of the hardships we will see as a result of the current governor’s reckless plunge — abetted by an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature — into the waters of “single payer” medical care. Unfortunately, we are reaping what we have sown.
In the long run — and maybe in the short run — artificial price or cost controls don’t work. True cost control requires reduction of the demand for services, not reduction of the supply of services. Demand-side efforts may be more difficult, take longer to work, and be less predictable in their results, but they are effective, fairer, and avoid the dislocations of service such as those we are seeing in Rutland.
So what is next? We can allow Gov. Shumlin and his “nonpolitical” (but very political) Green Mountain Care Board to force the closure of more services all around the state. Or we can elect Sen. Randy Brock as our next governor and take a sensible approach to reform of our health care system.
Rep. Thomas F. Koch
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