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Opinion: Health debate misses moral focus

Emerson Lynn’s editorial “Questions on Single Payer” (Addison Independent, Jan. 13, 2014) is almost a magical sleight of hand. While it initially appeared to support Vermont’s march toward single payer, it was only lulling us enough until it pulled the curtain away. Then we got doubts and fears about the finances until the editorial’s true colors appeared: “Legislators should also be open to other opportunities.” In other words, do not risk reform, give it back to private insurance like it largely was before.
Mr. Lynn’s financial analysis cites two recent studies about the supposed cost of single payer in Vermont: $1.6 billion or $2 billion in taxes. Even if these studies are correct, with Vermont’s total cost of health care currently at $5.1 billion and rising, single payer is saving us some $3 billion. Neglected here is that single payer will eliminate premiums and deductibles. These impose an enormous burden on Vermonters’ ability to access health care. 
I agreed with Mr. Lynn on two accounts. One was when he said of Gov. Shumlin and Vermont’s move to single payer: This isn’t inconsequential stuff. Done poorly, it (single payer) could rob the country of a good example.” This is true enough, although we already have a good template to work from: Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration. As the first state to go this way, all health care eyes are looking Vermont. But we should not just give up and stay with “the other way.” 
Nowhere, however, in Mr. Lynn’s editorial is there mention of the human costs of our current mess. As someone who nearly died because of free-market based health care, this, too, should be addressed; not just the costs alone. It is more than a financial question. It is also a moral question.
Walter Carpenter
Montpelier

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