Talk about the pot calling the kettle scorched.Â When Vice President Dick Cheney said that Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean was â€œover the topâ€? in his recent remarks about Republicans, is it possible the vice-president had forgotten his unprecedented bout of swearing at Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor?
The state of Vermont is forcing a potential crisis on the stateâ€™s 12 nonprofit home health providers that is puzzling and suspect. At issue is a demand by John Crowley, commissioner of Vermontâ€™s Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA), for home health providers to prove they are serving 100 percent of the state market by July 9. If they canâ€™t, Crowley says he will break the current state-imposed monopoly and allow a private firm to complete for the Medicare and Medicaid patients they serve.
The puzzling aspect of the forced crisis is the timing. Why Crowley has set such a tight deadline is unknown and makes little sense. Vermontâ€™s home health care providers have operated under the current system for numerous years and have an outstanding record of serving a high percentage of Vermonters at a low per-capita cost. According to state figures for 2002, Vermontâ€™s 12 home health centers served 108 Medicare patients per 1,000 residents, compared to 86 per 1,000 in New England and 61 per 1,000 nationally. The average cost per visit was $76 in 2002, compared to $102 nationally. And, because the home health centers operate on a break-even basis, they require no taxpayer subsidy.
The rising cost of health care insurance is no longer an academic, or political, discussion. The crux of the issue is economic and the need for a resolution is immediate.
Health insurance costs soared by double-digit increases again this year, taking a typical family policy at the Addison Independent with MVP from roughly $9,800 per year to more than $11,000. If the employer splits the cost 50-50 (and more and more employers simply arenâ€™t offering the coverage) the cost is still a staggering $5,500 per employee; and the employee struggles to meet that $5,500 annual expense. As someone once said, â€œa thousand here, a thousand there, and pretty soon youâ€™re talking about real money.â€?
In Montpelier last week, the Douglas administration was trying to explain away an apparent flip-flop on an issue that one might think was close to the governor's heart: open meetings and access to public records. The governor, after all, was Secretary of State for a good number of years during which he ardently supported the rights of citizens and the press to gain easy access to government meetings and records. Â The right of the people to know the truth about government actions, as the governor and most Vermonters know, is one of the most fundamental principles of a free society.
It was odd, then, that at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 17, Assistant Attorney General Bill Reynolds spoke against access to public records on behalf of the governor. Specifically, Reynolds said the governor opposed a bill, S.45, that would hold government responsible for wrongly denying access to public records or public meetings. The bill would simply change the word "may" to "shall" in terms of who should pay legal costs when the court rules for the plaintiff.
In last Thursdayâ€™s Addison Independent, we covered the naturalization ceremony in which 36 Vermont residents became American citizens. The ceremony was held at the Middlebury Union Middle School, and is one of about a dozen held throughout the state each year. Along with friends and family, more than 120 MUMS students observed the 40-minute ceremony â€” an event that was made all that much more meaningful by the thoughtful comments of U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Colleen A. Brown.
The oath of allegiance to their new country, Brown told the 36 Vermonters seeking nationalization, â€œrequires you to â€˜absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty to which you were previously a subject or citizen.â€™â€?