Robert Maynard
Left abandons ObamaCare for Green Mountain Care
By Robert Maynard
April 25, 2012

It looks like certain sections of the left are getting ready to ditch support for ObamaCare in favor of something closer to Vermont's own Green Mountain Care. At the end of March a piece entitled "Sorry Corporate Democrats, Single Payer Is All There Is," ran in the popular left wing blog known as the Daily Kos. It was also republished by Occupy Wall Street, Income Inequality Kos, and ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement. Not only does it call for non-support of ObamaCare, but it announces active opposition:
    When the Supreme Court begins its extraordinary three days of hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, one of the oddities will be an amicus brief challenging the act's individual mandate from 50 doctors who support national health insurance. They point out the inconvenient truth that, contrary to the administration's representations, the government did not need to require citizens to purchase insurance from private companies in order to meet its goals of serving the health-care needs of the populace. Congress could have enacted a single-payer law.
More specifically, they argue that:
    Since the Constitution unambiguously gives Congress the power to tax, there has never been a serious constitutional challenge to our tax-supported systems of health insurance, Medicare, and the services of the Veterans Health Administration system. In the words of the brief:

    "Amici thus submit this brief for the purpose of disputing the primary tenet of the Government's position, that Congress cannot regulate the national healthcare market effectively unless it has power to require that citizens purchase insurance from private insurance companies. On the contrary, as set forth herein, Congress has already demonstrated that it can regulate healthcare markets effectively by implementing a single payer system such as Medicare or the VHA."

    Medicare For All: It's not just the right thing to do it's also the only constitutional way to provide universal healthcare.
A good case can be made that the Democrats lost so much ground in 2010 because ObamaCare was seen as an over reach. Now the left wants to go peddle to the metal in a direction that is even more of an over reach. Those who are not on board for such an approach are derided as "corporate democrats." The argument that the problem with Obama's approach was that it did not go far enough is a hard case to make in light of the polls and results of the previous election and the potential spilt between these hard core figures on the left and the "corporate democrats," could spell even further electoral destruction for the Democratic Party. It will also shine a white hot spotlight on efforts here in Vermont to impose a single payer system and become the "Saskatchewan of the U.S." True North has already reported here and here on the well funded national movement pushing for such a scheme to be implemented with Vermont serving as the laboratory. Governor Shumlin was made statements in the past that qualified the supposed inevitability of Green Mountain Care: "We will only go ahead [with Green Mountain Care] if we're convinced together as a state, that the system is better than what we have, that it costs less, it's going to help create jobs, and we've got the cost containment system right. If we can't do that, we'll take our marbles and go home." — Gov. Peter Shumlin, public health care meeting, Rutland, July 26, 2011.

If ObamaCare goes down in flame, will our political leaders be able to resist the well funded national push to turn Vermont into the "Saskatchewan of the U.S."? In the face of such pressure, will they cook the books to get the numbers to tell the story they want them to? When questioned about why the numbers for GMC are not going to be released until after the elections, proponents of Green Mountain Care argue that they need to move slow and get the numbers right and that it would be premature to come out with such numbers any earlier.

Figuring out how the financing will work before 2013 is far from "premature." This is something that reform advocates have been working on for quite some time. "In 1992 the legislature, urged on by Sen. Racine, snatched $900,000 from an insurance reserve fund and gave it to a new Health Care Authority. Its main task was to develop a single payer plan and something called a regulated multiplayer plan, by the end of 1993." (From John McClaughry's EAI Commentaries) They did so, but the numbers they came up with were not popular, so the plan went nowhere. "In 2006 the Democrats created a Health Care Reform Commission and told it to do much the same thing. It hired Prof. Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University to produce a new plan." (McClaughry) Again the plan went nowhere, but Prof. Thorpe got paid for $181,323.22 his services. In the 2009-2010 legislative session, Senator Racine proposes S.88, which calls for spending "400,000 to study socialized medicine." (McClaughry) "The Senate Appropriations committee agreed to spend only $250,000 on this study." This brings us to the "Hsaio-Gruber Report." "In this report (costing $300,000) the legislature's health care guru Dr. William Hsaio costed out the Option 3 model embodied in H.202. He concluded that his package would require a 9.4% employer payroll tax, plus a 3.1% employee payroll tax." Of course the bill passed by the House, did not include the financing plan we already paid for, but gave the Shumlin administration "another $1.1 million to produce its own financing plan.

In short, the problem is not that reform advocates have not been given enough time to come up with financing numbers, but that the numbers are not politically popular. It is not just Wendy Wilton's numbers that they have problems with, but even numbers produced by sympathetic sources that were paid to come up with such numbers. The result is a decision to put off coming up with yet another set of numbers until after the election so that the supporters of this approach to reform will not have to face the voters again for another two years. By that time, I suspect that they believe any discontent over the plan will be forgotten. Let's hope that Vermont's voting population will catch on to this scheme.

© Robert Maynard


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