Well, hooray, we got us a health care bill. It wasn’t looking like it on Friday night and Saturday morning, but Governor Shumlin and top lawmakers finally inked a deal providing a whole three million dollars more for health care reform.
“I wish there were other things we could include,” said Rep. Bill Lippert, chair of the House Health Care Committee. His Senate counterpart, Claire Ayer, called the bill “pathetic.” And single-payer advocate Dr. Deb Richter told VTDigger: “For perspective, $3 million is what we spend as a state on health care in four hours,”
How’d we wind up with $3 million? Ass-backwardly, of course.
At the eleventh hour, health care reform came in last on lawmakers’ list of reasons to raise taxes, behind closing the budget gap and paying enough for clean water that the EPA might, hopefully, get off our backs. As the Governor pushed for fewer tax hikes and more spending cuts, health care was caught in the wringer.
On Friday night and Saturday morning, there were four big bills hanging fire: taxes, spending, economic development, and health care. Health care was a distant fourth. In fact, hallway chatter had it that health care would fall from the agenda, partly because of revenue shyness and partly because any bill would be so small as to not be worth the trouble.
On Saturday morning and early afternoon, as lawmakers and administration officials tried to reach common ground on revenues, it became clear that health care would have to settle for whatever crumbs fell from the conference table.