Tag Archives: Medicare

Oh boy, oh boy, it’s last-minute dirty tricks time

The Republicans are targeting potentially vulnerable Democratic lawmakers with a mailer repeating the conservative lie that the Shumlin Administration wants to “take over” Medicare.

I’ve seen two mailers, identical except for the specific candidates involved. One is for Addison County Republican hopeful Valerie Mullin, and it targets incumbent Dems Mike Fisher and David Sharpe. The other is on behalf of Republican John Mattison, who’s challenging incumbent Herb Russell of Rutland City.

The Mullin flyer bears the return address of “Friends of Valerie Mullin,” her campaign committee, but it clearly was not produced by her campaign because, as I said, it’s identical to the Mattison flyer.

I’ve only seen these two, but it wouldn’t surprise me if identical mailers hadn’t been sent in all districts where a Republican has a chance to knock off a Democratic lawmaker.

So let’s review. In Act 48, the 2011 health care reform bill, there was a provision calling for the state to pursue administration of Medicare as part of single-payer health care. This provision is what’s called “session law,” and was intended as a guideline rather than a mandate.

“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.

Administration officials subsequently discovered that the feds wouldn’t allow Vermont to manage Medicare. It was impossible in any case, because Medicare for the entire Northeast is in a single administrative district. Vermont would have had to take over the entire region, which was clearly out of the question. This year, Act 48 was amended and the provision was dropped.

Which hasn’t stopped the desperate Republicans from repeating the lie. And now they’ve produced mailers trumpeting the lie.

Bottom of the barrel, guys. Bottom of the barrel.

Here’s a picture of one flyer, for your edification:

MattisonMedicare

 

The Mullin flyer is identical except for the names of the candidates.

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.

Pfft! There goes another conservative talking point

Vermont conservatrives have been making some hay lately by raising fears about Medicare. The idea is that Governor Shumlin is plotting to take over Medicare, and who knows what will happen to your benefits after that.

Well, first of all, Medicare benefits are protected in federal law.

But more importantly, here comes a tidbit from VTDigger’s Anne Galloway: 

Two recent stories about the relationship between Medicare and Green Mountain Care, the state’s planned universal publicly financed health care program – often called single-payer – were inaccurate. The stories were based on statutes on the Legislature’s website that had not been updated.

The stories outlined accusations made by Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano and Orange County Senatorial candidate Bob Frenier. The same charge has been made in a radio ad produced by the Ethan Allen Institute.

As Galloway explains, the legislature amended the health care law earlier this year, removing the section calling for state oversight of Medicare. And, she says,

State officials have said they are no longer seeking to administer Medicare as part of Green Mountain Care, and the law reflects that change.

The problem, apparently, is that the legislature’s website was not properly updated and still contains the old version of the law. And, as Galloway concludes, the charges about a state takeover of Medicare are “inaccurate.”

This should clear things up, but somehow I can’t see the conservatives dropping a nice juicy talking point just because it happens to be wrong.