“Single payer” is the buzzword of Vermont’s 2014 election. A candidate’s pledge to support single payer is the litmus test for some. Big money — mostly from out-of-state unions — is flowing into Vermont to support candidates who pass the single-payer test.
So what’s the big deal? If the state delivers on its promise — the same or better health care at a lower cost — we’re all going to support single payer. This is really a non-issue.
But perhaps Vermonters are starting to have doubts. The single-payer political action committee Vermont Leads has found only 10 candidates out of the 34 contestants to endorse in the 2014 legislative primary races. (Full disclosure: If I were running for re-election, I assume I would have passed the test and gotten an endorsement, too, because I voted for Act 48.)
Voters now have seen how poorly the state has performed in its first attempt at health care reform, and they are rightfully more cautious about supporting something that has yet to be described. Blind support of a program that has no clear definition is like agreeing to buy a new car before you know how many miles it gets to the gallon, what it costs, or what the monthly payments will be.
The design and implementation of Vermont’s health care exchange has been a disaster, and no one disputes that. As a legislator who voted for the bills that created our exchange, I am culpable on some level for this failure, because the Legislature didn’t insist on more safeguards and checkpoints on the rollout. Single-payer legislation must be much more carefully crafted and robust, and no one should agree to buy this thing until they know what it is. We know we want a new car, but we need to see the sticker.
The question for voters should be: Do we want candidates who will insist on what was promised, or should they act like lemmings marching to the sea? What if the single-payer system does not provide universal access to health care? What if it rations the quality or quantity of health care? What if it is more expensive than our current cost?
Do we want candidates to vote for single payer regardless of access, quality or cost? This seems to be the real issue.
Unfortunately, we won’t know the answers to these questions by the primary on Aug. 26. We likely won’t know by the November election either. So what’s a voter to do? Sometimes, the past is the best predictor of the future. We need to elect legislators who will pursue the promise of single payer but not allow another health care debacle to occur in Vermont. That’s what I intend to do.
Paul Ralston of Middlebury is a Democratic member of the Vermont House and co-founder of Vision to Action Vermont.MORE IN Perspective
- Most Popular
- Most Emailed
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1843, British Naval officer GEORGE LORD PAULET obtains provisional cession of Hawaiian Islands; 1866, miners claim Calaveras skull found found in goldmine is remains of 5 million-year-old Pliocene man.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day 1739, 'Richard Palmer' identified in prison at York Castle as the notorious outlaw DICK TURPIN; IN 1836, Battle of the Alamo begins near San Antonio de Bexar, Texas; 1896, the Tootsie Roll invented by LEO HIRSCHFELD.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1472, Orkney, Shetland islands put up as collateral by Norway to Scotland in lieu of dowry for MARGARET OF DENMARK on her marriage with JAMES III, king of Scotland; 1962, JOHN GLENN first American to orbit Earth.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: City mayoral candidates debate campaign issues; Hartford, Conn., woman still missing; Neal Goswami reports attempts to legislate suicide; local woman loses 100 pounds through TOPS program.
- RICHARD'S POOR ALMANACK: On this day in 1878, JOHN TUNSTALL murdered near Lincoln, New Mexico, by the outlaw JESSE EVANS; in 1930, ELM FARM OLLIE first cow to fly in aircraft, first to be milked airborne; 1955, nuke test WASP; '79, snow in Sahara.
- TOMORROW'S HEADLINES TODAY: Rutland Herald News Editor Alan J. Keays and staff writer Gordon Dritschilo discuss stories planned for the February 18, 2015, edition of the newspaper: Winter budgets maxed, legal marijuana, Springfield bank job, USPS slowdown