Hack’s retreat

The conservatives really thought they’d gotten hold of a hot one.

They’d suddenly “discovered” a Shumlin Administration plan to “take over” Medicare, and began furiously stoking fear among Vermont seniors. Or at least trying their best to do so. As if they really gave a damn about Medicare, considering that their party is actively trying to kill it for future enrollees. And that their favored candidate, Dan Feliciano, is a Libertarian and presumably doesn’t believe in relying on the gubmint for anything.

It took a few days for the Administration to put together a coherent response, perhaps because they were incredulous that anyone would take this seriously. But their response did come, and it was simple and categorical: There is no such thing.

First word actually came from VTDigger’s Anne Galloway, who reported that the pertinent clause in Vermont’s health care reform law had been amended last spring, and that the law no longer mentioned anything like a takeover.

Which, as I predicted, didn’t stop the anti-reform crowd from pushing the idea. Here’s a Twitter exchange between Agitator-in-Chief Darcie “Hack” Johnston and Yours Truly, beginning with a Johnston link to a fear-stoking radio ad produced by the Ethan Allen Institute:

Funny, I didn’t get a response to that last one.

Meanwhile, El Jefe General John McClaughry leaped into the fray with a partial retreat, posted as a Comment under Galloway’s story. In it, he tried to muddy the legal waters before concluding that apparently there would be no Medicare takeover — but instead of admitting the whole hoopla had been pointless, he posited that the Administration was “trying to squirm out” of their alleged intent to take over Medicare. He further congratulated Dan Feliciano, the one who first tried to peddle this bill of goods, for supposedly uncovering the Shumlin plot and forcing the Governor to abandon it.

Like I’ve said before, sometimes I think ol’ Jefe doesn’t really mean the stuff he writes; he’s just trollin’ us.

Later in the day came another VTDigger story, amplifying Galloway’s initial post. This time, Administration officials had joined the chorus.

Robin Lunge, director of Health Care Reform, said unequivocally Monday that it won’t happen.

“Federal law does not permit us to get the cash,” she said.

Reporter Morgan True then explained that the troublesome portion of Act 48, the 2011 health care reform bill, called for the state to pay for all health services “to the extent possible under federal law.” And as Lunge stated, federal law doesn’t permit such a move.

Further, True reported:

That portion of Act 48 is what’s known as session law, or the legislation as passed before it is written into statute.

It provides guidance for writing the statutes, and while it is still law, the portions that don’t make it into statute are often temporary and meant to provide guidance.

“In 2011, we asked the administration to entertain lots of things, but it was in the context of ‘tell us whether you can do this,’” said Rep. Mike Fisher (D-Lincoln), who was on the House Health Care Committee when it drafted Act 48.

And after all that, remember that this year’s Legislature repealed that section of Act 48.

Johnston, of course, was prepared with a fallback position: “if the state is allowed” to set payment rates for medical services “and determine the type of payments, it will be bad for seniors on Medicare.”

Please note the first word: “if”. The whole argument is based on her own assumption.

From there, it’s just a quick hop and a step to the conservatives’ favorite bugaboo: rationing!!!

Scary

It’s a quick, and nearly complete, comedown for Johnston and her ilk. From frightening stories of a Shumlin plot to take control of Medicare and screw around with seniors’ benefits, to a maybe-possibly-perhaps shift in reimbursements. So sad when a good conspiracy theory gets thoroughly blown up by the facts.

The ironic thing about all of this is the notion that hardcore conservatives are suddenly the Protectors of Medicare. Don’t I recall Mr. McClaughry, just a few weeks ago, pining for the good old days before we had all this Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid crap that was draining our independence and sucking the lifeblood out of the private-sector social safety net that somehow, magically, took care of everyone’s needs?

If you’re interested in protecting federal health insurance, I’d advise you that Governor Shumlin is a much better ally than the likes of Darcie Johnston.

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