Letters to the Editor: Unfair to blame teachers for rising health care costs

Here we go again — Vermont public school teachers and their union are being made the scapegoat, blamed for high taxes and the high cost of health care in the state. Can anyone seriously believe that bullying the teachers can save the state $26 million? What are the real causes of the rising costs of health care?
Health insurance companies come to mind. Health insurance companies increase the cost of health care by an estimated 19 to 24% without improving health care. In 2016 the revenues for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont were $939 million. Based on their revenues for 2015, their state tax burden should have been $15.7 million, but since they are a “non-profit” they did not have to pay those taxes. The CEO of BC/BS of Vermont makes an annual salary of $626,000, enough to support 12 Vermont families at average income.
Each year BC/BS of Vermont requests a rate increase from the Green Mountain Care Board, and they receive it: 5.9% in 2016 and 7.3% for 2017. Yet BC/BS Vermont does not actually provide health care. They do not perform surgery or deliver babies or stitch up wounds or perform even the most basic of medical services. What they deliver is an additional level of bureaucracy, paperwork and expense.
Consider the pharmaceutical companies. They have been raising prices on medicines drastically, so that their profits have gone as high as 46% in one year. The average compensation for the CEO of a pharmaceutical company was $28 million last year. (For comparison, the average annual teacher salary in Vermont is about $53,000.) The unrestrained greed of these companies has had a devastating effect on the cost of health care.
The health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies are owned and managed by the wealthiest class in our state and nation. Today, the richest 20% of Americans control 93% of the nation’s wealth. Yet, in spite of this increasing inequality, the wealthy pay taxes today at a much lower rate than they have historically. And, since the economic recovery began in 2009, more than 90% of the economic benefit has gone to the top one percent.
So, if the Governor and his supporters are going to blame the high cost of health care on the public school teachers rather than on the insurance companies or the pharmaceutical companies, it becomes obvious who the Governor’s friends are and where the money comes from. Oppressors never take on the big and powerful; they try to take on the weak. This is why teachers have a union — to be able to stand up to the bullies both in their own communities and in Montpelier.
Millard M. Cox

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