Health care fears overblown

What seems to irk opponents the most about H.202, the much ballyhooed health-care reform bill passed by the Vermont legislature last week, is that Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are getting a lot of credit for establishing a process to move toward a new health care system without first figuring out the details. As one conservative curmudgeon noted in an attempt to dismiss the importance of the bill, who wouldn’t be for creating an improved health care system that covers all Vermonters for less money?
In a sea of legislative accomplishments in which Democrats are basking in the glory of a most productive session, it’s not surprising that opponents would seek a contrary point of view on which they can champion their opposing philosophy.
But what’s been disappointing and contradictory is that the opposing Republican view has offered no solutions or details to any plan that would improve the dismal status quo. They have been vocal skeptics of a new approach, but utterly devoid of ways to get the marketplace to respond appropriately.
Sen. Randy Brock, R-Swanton, as we’ve noted before, has been articulate in his complaints about H.202, asking pertinent questions: How much is it going to cost? How will we pay for it? What will be covered? Will I be forced to participate? Will it actually save the state money, and how can we be sure?
Brock went further than most legislators, however, with his off-the-hip critique of the Canadian health care system and his penchant for fear-mongering on this issue when he wrote in late April: “We only have to look to our north and see where Single Payer will likely take us: higher taxes, long waits for care, shabby facilities, a loss of doctors and a bloated bureaucracy. It’s not a pretty picture.”
Many would offer a much rosier picture of universal health care in other Western countries, including the fact that they cover everyone at a much lower per capita cost, but, more importantly, there’s a missing piece to Brock’s — and other opponents’ — criticisms. They fail to admit the exorbitant rise in the cost of health insurance premiums over the past two decades. They fail to say now what they have admitted before: that the double-digit increases in health insurance costs are not sustainable and that change must happen; that a system that precludes (because of the high cost of insurance) more than a fifth of the state’s population from health care coverage is not viable.
Most importantly, these opponents of change fail to admit that the current system (capitalism) has failed to find viable solutions to its many shortcomings despite 20-plus years of public struggle and complaint.
Adding insult to injury, the process devised in H.202 is also irksome. Rather than have the Legislature hash over how this new system is going to work, all the heavy lifting has been relegated to a five-member health care board. That doesn’t seem democratic, at the very least, and it limits public discussion of how the plan might work.
True enough. This five-member board will, in fact, operate as if it were a benevolent dictator — with one important difference: the Legislature gets the final vote.
And that, frankly, makes sense. Our political system seems incapable of devising complicated systems to resolve such controversial issues. Imagine piling this task on one committee in each legislative house and then having it go through committee after committee for suggestions, revisions and ultimate approval. It’s safe to say such legislation would not survive the committee process with any hope of being effective.
So, bring on the wise men and women who will attempt to go where others in the country have not gone. They have 18 months to envision something that’s better than what we have today, and if they are successful, all Vermonters win. And if it’s not something the Legislature can approve, we keep the status quo, having already implemented the federal changes required to comply with Obamacare. There is, in short, no harm in trying. Fears to the contrary are overblown.

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