Current health care proposals aren't the real answer

August 07, 2017

Addison Independent

By Jason Kaye

In a recent guest editorial published in this paper, the co-authors — four top executives of medical centers and health insurance companies in Vermont — promoted the ideas of healthy lifestyles and individual responsibility as the primary strategy to end the health care crisis.

Living a healthy lifestyle is probably easy to do for these four folks, considering that in fiscal year 2015 they made the following in total compensation: $353,000 (Jill Berry Bowen), $519,000 (Todd Moore), $626,000 (Don George). Data isn’t yet publicly available for Eileen Whalen, but her predecessor as president of UVM Medical Center was compensated to the tune of $1,650,000. That year, my total compensation was $30,000. To Vermont’s health care executives, it probably seems easy to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ when your boots are made of gold. But down here in the working class, the boots have steel toes.

Recently, my grandfather, a Korean War veteran, told me that the VA started paying for his adult diapers. He is grateful that this allows him to save $25 each month. In contrast, my uncle’s pharmaceutical company won federal approval for a new drug, bestowing upon him a $6 million bonus. Here we have it: on one side of my family, my grandfather was going up and down the stairs in his house by crawling on his hands and knees. On the other side of my family, my uncle bought a second apartment next to his first in a Manhattan sky rise, knocked down the wall between the two, and thereby gave new meaning to the housing term double-wide.

Fred Kniffin, the CEO of Porter Medical Center, is correct that the health care crisis is partisan, though he is incorrect to suggest that this is in the usual Democrat/Republican sense. The real divide is along class lines, between those who are getting rich in this health care crisis and those who are struggling to pay their health care bills.

Vermont’s health care executives would be wise to listen carefully to those most impacted by this crisis — the Porter nurses and frontline caregivers, poor and working class patients, and people with chronic health issues. These folks know exactly what’s wrong with the system, and it ain’t a lack of jogging.

The new flavor for funding health care in Vermont — known as the capitated payment system — is far from a “revolutionary health care initiative” nor will it “transform healthcare” in Vermont. To the editor of this paper, reserve these accolades for the actual revolution, when we finally implement the law we’ve got on the books — Act 48 of 2011 — that aims “to provide, as a public good, comprehensive, affordable, high-quality, publicly financed health care coverage for all Vermont residents in a seamless manner regardless of income, assets, health status, or availability of other health coverage.”

We fought to get the universal health care law passed in Vermont; now we fight for its implementation.

Jason Kaye
Middlebury