The Next Health Care Victim

January 17, 2017

The Burlington Free Press

A health care crisis is coming down the road at very high speed. Getting rid of the ACA (Obamacare) is one of our new president’s top priorities. That will end subsidized health insurance under the ACA, and the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid.

Millions of people, including many, many thousands of Vermonters, will rapidly become unable to afford trips to doctors and hospitals.
Medicare, already too expensive for many seniors, is also looking at “reform” to make it even less useful.

None of the alternatives being tossed around will help these people much. Buying insurance across state lines? Not helpful when you can’t afford the premiums. Expanding the use of Health Savings Accounts? Not helpful to people who don’t have the income to fund the accounts, and the tax benefits mean nothing to people with incomes so low they pay little to no income taxes.

If you are unemployed, disabled, or a member of the working poor, you’re already in serious danger of being unable to get health care. If you are working and not quite poor, you are next. That’s a certainty – it’s simply a matter of time before rising health care costs, stagnant wages and the replacement of good jobs with bad jobs drops you into the growing mass of people unable to get the healthcare that you and your family need.

Clearly the libertarian/conservative movement –those largely well-educated, well-dressed, affluent people who think that government should ignore those who are not as fortunate –intends to drastically reduce the supports available to ordinary Americans. They spend an amazing amount of money and effort convincing the people that government concern for its citizens’ health and well being is a horrible thing.

But they can only do that if the majority of people let them. But we are still a democracy. It’s “our” town, “our” county, “our” state and “our” country. And “our” means all of us.

It’s time to do something if you care about yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors. Voting is necessary, of course, but it will take more to stop the systematic dismantling of public support. Find a political party and become active. Attend the meetings, choose the leaders, become a leader yourself. Find a local group that supports your interests and join it. Speak up when people attack public programs. And for Pete’s sake, tell your legislators how you feel about this.

Vermont currently has at least two better alternatives to the coming crisis. The Universal Healthcare plan, Green Mountain Care, that Gov. Shumlin declined to pursue two years ago, is still part of our laws. Shumlin never did submit the detailed proposals to the Legislature, as the law requires. Shouldn’t we at least follow the laws and give the Legislature the chance to vote on the proposals? If not, why not?

A narrower alternative has also been proposed that provides universal primary care, at less cost than Green Mountain Care.

It really is pretty much up to us, all of us, whether we’re headed for a health crisis or health care.

Lee Russ lives in Bennington