Now that Crossover Day has come and gone, it’s now official: State lawmakers will consider giving themselves health care coverage but won’t consider the same for all the rest of us.
On the Senate side, S.39 has emerged from the Government Operations Committee. It would significantly increase lawmakers’ pay from its current pittance to an amount that’s not absolutely insulting. There would be other improvements, all overdue, but the big one is coverage under the state employees’ health insurance system.
I’ve got no problem with any of that. However…
On the House side, a bill to put us on a path to universal health care was quashed without even the briefest of consideration. This, despite the fact that it had 59 co-sponsors.
Fifty-nine. More than one-third of the House.
Even so, the House Health Care Committee stuck it to the wall and left it there to die. No hearings, no votes. The contrast cannot go by without comment.
Hey, I get it. Every session has a surfeit of bills to consider. Committee time is precious. Most bills suffer the same fate as H.156.
I do wonder how many of those DOA bills had fifty-nine co-sponsors, but whatever.
We’re closing in on a full decade since Gov. Peter Shumlin waved the white flag on single-payer health care — the issue that won him the governorship in the first place, mind you. That happened in 2014, shortly after Shumlin came within a whisker of losing to the worst major-party candidate in recent memory, Scott Milne. Since then?
And counting. With no attempt to revive single-payer or even pursue a more modest alternative such as universal primary care. As universal care advocate Dr. Deb Richter recently noted,
44% of all Vermonters with health insurance under the age of 65 are underinsured — a major illness would lead to financial bankruptcy. Many people in this position avoid care, leading to worsening health and even premature death.
Well hey, 44% of all Vermonters, there’s always next year. Maybe the prospect of a full decade of inaction will embarrass the Legislature into seriously pursuing the issue.
Maybe. But probably not.
This column is sadly accurate. Of course, legislators should be compensated for their work and deserve health care, but don’t all Vermonters deserve health care? The legislators have quickly passed along a bill that provides health care coverage for themselves, and that’s fine, because they deserve health care. But what about everyone else? Don’t they deserve health care too? We have a health care crisis with large numbers of Vermonters under-insured and unable to pay for health care. Yet health care for all Vermonters is put off year after year. Why not hold hearings on H156 which would phase in universal health care in Vermont? This is critical and surely as important as other pieces of legislation that seem to be making progress this session. How long can we pretend this health care crisis does not exist?
” Maybe. But probably not.”
Thanks for this piece and you’re probably right. They probably are going to keep those 44% of Vermonters waiting for another year, then another, and who knows how many.
I keep thinking that the leaders in the legislature want to privatize our health care fiasco to get it out of their hair. Then they can blame the privatized health care for the all the problems as they underfund the system and that 44% underinsured Vermonters will increase to 54%, then 64%, and so on.
S.39 is an absolute shameless piece of hypocrisy. Is this what we get with such a huge democratic majority that we voted in to start doing something about this? I wonder what those 1/3 of the legislators who sponsored H.156 are thinking about this. I’m sure that the voters will have some thoughts about this in 2024 when we vote the people who did this bill out so they will lose their government-run health care
I’ve watched Vermont health care plans evolve for over 40 years. There have been many false starts, short lived programs, administrative debacles, computer snafus, broken promises, last minute backtracking, etc. It makes me wonder if Vermont government has either the ability or the guts to make substantial change even when change is sorely needed. If you were a legislator, wouldn’t it be easier to turn your back on the problem?
I keep wondering if our legislature, or those who set the agendas anyway, simply want to hand it over to the private sector so they don’t have to deal with it anymore. we’ll pay the price for that, of course.