Vermont Standard

By Kurt Staudter

“The time to reboot Vermont’s health care reform efforts are long overdue. It is time to rip the Band-Aid off and start anew to achieve better quality and savings for Vermonters,” — Rep. David Yacovone (D) Morrisville in an opinion piece in the Morrisville News-Citizen.

Ask Governor Phil Scott what’s being done to improve our totally dysfunctional healthcare system and he’ll tell you that they’re banking on our “Accountable Care Organization” (ACO) OneCare Vermont. Ask the rest: The Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, the Health Committee chairs, Senator Ginny Lyons and Rep. Bill Lippert, and they’ll tell you that healthcare reform is not on the docket this year. It should be noted that during the last election cycle, Democrats promoted healthcare reform as their top priority, and those that worked hardest to reelect Democrats did so with the understanding that a healthcare reboot would top the agenda.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the biennium. Democrats decided that the issue was too big for little old Vermont to take on. So as Rep. Yacovone relates his eight-hour plus odyssey in a hospital emergency room waiting to see his son after surgery, he overhears the following: “How in the world will dad take care of mom at home?” “How are we going to pay these bills?” “I’m going to miss more time at work. We have to take the tests over; they did not come out right!” “Mom is going to give me her car when she dies. Do you want it?”

Each year we send our friends and neighbors up to Montpelier to do our bidding under the Golden Dome, and for as long as I can remember, healthcare reform has been top of the agenda. Yet, somehow the leaders in the Democratic Party — the only party that even raises the issue — is prepared for another session of legislative inaction on the issue. If there’s one thing that the pandemic has exposed, it’s going to be the failings of our healthcare system.

The problems are obvious. The quality of care sucks — botched tests, and don’t even get me started on infections you pick up from stays in the hospital. Have you ever heard that “cleanliness is next to Godliness?” Right now our hospitals are, by that standard, next to Hell. It’s already been publicized that Americans are paying more for healthcare than anywhere else in the world, and let me refer you back to point number 1: The quality sucks! We’re hardly getting what we pay for. Finally, not everyone is covered.

Granted, with Obamacare we’re doing better at finding ways to provide health insurance, but anyone following the issue will tell you, “Health insurance isn’t the same as healthcare.”

As it stands, the administration and the legislature are all backing OneCare Vermont, even though the Chairman of the Green Mountain Care Board calls the performance of the organization “abysmal,” and the State Auditor Doug Hoffer reports that the efforts of OneCare has not resulted in the predicted savings. Yet, all involved seem perfectly happy to do nothing as One Care skims millions of our healthcare dollars for administration of this colossal failure.

Still, plans are being made by et al. to get another Medicare waiver to continue this failed effort at reform. While the idea of OneCare to improve preventative care has merit, the execution and measuring of the success has been a failure. So after 4 years of OneCare showing no signs of fulfilling their mission, it’s high time for lawmakers to get back to real healthcare reform.

Pending in the House is H.276. This legislation will launch Green Mountain Care — the first in the nation government run healthcare option and will make primary care a right. In later years, it adds dental work and eyeglasses as well. The legislation goes on to implement full healthcare benefits within ten years. It’s very ambitious, and it would be first-in-the-nation. Yet it seems to be beyond the reach of the Democrats that are running the show right now. Hum, perhaps we need a few new Democrats?

The pandemic has revealed the failure of our healthcare system, and at this point everyone has their own horror story about healthcare. In this country medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy with 42% of all bankruptcies having to do with healthcare. How long are we going to continue ignoring this vital issue?

I must sound like a broken record. First, profiting off the sick and dying is, in my mind, the most reprehensible and heinous of crimes one human can perpetrate against another human being. Second, this is the richest nation in history, and we don’t have the best healthcare, why? Finally, through the years Vermont has led the nation on so many issues, now it’s time for Vermonters to show the rest of the nation: Pass H.276.

Contact Kurt Staudter at