Responses range from disappointment to ‘I told you so’

December 18, 2014

Rutland Herald: MONTPELIER — Reaction was plentiful Wednesday to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s announcement that he would not pursue his signature policy goal of a single-payer health care system for the state.

Advocates who favored his dream of a universal, publicly financed health care system expressed disappointment, while opponents said they were pleased the policy was being shelved.

The following is a sampling of reaction from across the state:

 

Scott Milne, Republican nominee for governor in the 2014 election

“I was partially right, when I said one difference between Peter Shumlin and myself is that I will tell you now that single payer is dead and he would wait until after the election. There is still an election, so I guess he should get some credit for that. …

“It validates that Peter Shumlin’s number one priority coming into office four years ago turns out to be his number one failure. A more competent look on this four years ago would have meant progress on real health care reform.”

 

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

“Today’s announcement that Gov. Shumlin is scrapping his single-payer plan is a definitive step in the right direction for Vermonters, Vermont businesses and Vermont’s economy. As I’ve said continually over the last two years, if the governor’s single-payer plan places another burden on already overtaxed Vermonters, we simply cannot afford it. At the same time, I’ve kept an open mind about the idea, waiting to hear the details. Fortunately we heard them today and I am glad the governor agrees with many of us: Businesses cannot afford an 11.5 percent payroll tax, individuals cannot afford a 9.5 percent income tax, our state cannot afford a $2.6 billion bill, and Vermont cannot afford to continue down this path of uncertainty. We’ve already spent far too much money exploring this idea, and the discussion has paralyzed our business community.”

 

Peter Sterling, executive director, pro-single payer group Vermont Leads

“It’s very disappointing, and I think, ultimately, it’s very disappointing that we’re not going to be able to say that every Vermonter is going to get health care. The (health insurance) exchange is never going to provide that. We obviously have to keep moving forward and figure out how we can achieve the goal of getting every Vermonter health care if single payer is not it. ...

“I think the biggest sticking point was that there was no money, there was no way to effectively transition small businesses who are paying zero for health care to that payroll tax of 11.5 percent.”

 

James Haslam, executive director, Vermont Workers’ Center

“Clearly, a political decision was made not to raise adequate revenue from big businesses and from wealthy folks to fund this thing. The money is going in right now primarily from large employers and the money is there, and it’s just the political will of being able to raise the taxes. ...

“Vermonters are paying the money right now, and the question is how do we collect it, and that’s obviously a difficult question to answer. They’ve been trying to do it. We don’t buy the idea that this was something that we could do up until Friday and then all of a sudden a few days later we can’t do it. We’re hoping the administration and other elected officials that were charged with Act 48 keep an open mind and think about ways that we can move forward.”

 

Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, House minority leader

“I feel very strongly that the governor’s announcement today is good news for Vermont. This ideological experiment was an egregious waste of taxpayer dollars. The governor has spent millions of your taxpayer dollars with nothing to show for it. It is unlikely that a single Vermonter will see an improvement in their health care services or reduction in health care expenses as a result of these wasted dollars. Just imagine what could have been done for every Vermonter with that amount of money.”

 

Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington:

“Welcome to reality, governor. From what I can see at first take, all of the problems to which he refers were apparent and valid concerns back in 2011. A downturn in the economy, tight-fisted feds, complexity of current health insurance/taxation nexus — all were concerns for myself and others who cautioned that the single payer might be too hard, too complex and not enough benefit to offset the high costs.

“If I had not taken a vow to be a kinder and gentler Cynthia, I would be saying, ‘I told you so.’”

 

Bea Grause, president, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems

“Vermont’s not-for-profit hospitals support this decision and look forward to working with the governor and the Green Mountain Care Board on meaningful health care reforms that provide coverage for all Vermonters and make health insurance more affordable without damaging Vermont’s economy.”