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Column: Time for Vt. to act on health care

For the Valley News
Published: 6/13/2020 10:20:12 PM
Modified: 6/13/2020 10:20:10 PM

No one can deny we are in a health care crisis, and no flyovers or banners can adequately thank the front-line workers in our hospitals and caretakers at home right now.

What would express our gratitude is crafting and supporting universal health care, such as “Medicare for All.” So, while we wait for a dysfunctional Congress to shift its numbers, what can we do in Vermont to be sure we focus back on the goals of Act 48?

Remember that act, passed nine years ago last month? Its intent was to create “a publicly financed health care program designed to contain costs and to provide comprehensive, affordable, high-quality health care coverage for all Vermont residents.” A study conducted by Aimed Alliance, a nonprofit seeking to protect and enhance the rights of health care consumers and providers, revealed that 90% of doctors believe barriers set by insurance plans have led to worsened conditions for patients, that two-thirds of them would recommend against pursuing a career in medicine, and that “48% are considering a career change altogether.”

People are now losing their insurance as they lose their jobs, and we’re in the midst of a health care crisis never seen before. It is time we wake up. So let’s at least get back to taking care of Vermonters by creating a health care system as a public good, not as a money-making money opportunity for stockholders. We need to stop wasting health care dollars on both for-profit insurance companies, with their high salaries and dividend payouts, and on the administrative boondoggle that is the OneCare accountable care organization, which bleeds our publicly contributed funds to Medicare and Medicaid into an opaque, private administrative system for which there is not yet accountability and, in the process, drains money from the budgets of our small hospitals.

As a health care provider, I haven’t met anyone (except very well-off people with so-called “Cadillac” policies) who likes the insurance on the exchange — the silly co-pays (with the administrative waste even collecting them), the high premiums to get some decent level of care, and the still high but lower premiums people pay for what amounts only to catastrophic care with outrageous deductibles so they can’t afford mental health or primary care, which might aid in preventing more serious illnesses.

It is time — it is past time — that we face the myth that we can’t afford universal, government-regulated health care. Of course we can create a system for Vermonters to get universal care, not all at once, but in incremental stages, beginning with primary care, which includes mental health and substance abuse treatment. We will have to take back the wasted bureaucratic Medicare and Medicaid funds from the OneCare experiment, and we need time to recruit doctors with the promise of doing health care instead of administrative work. Pool all the money paid out by everyone (including those with Cadillac policies, such as public employees and teachers), and subtract the administrative waste and the premiums. Yes, there would be a graduated tax, as there is for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but there would be no premiums and certainly no large deductibles, and the co-pays would be found not worth the administrative time to collect them. And there would be no fear of losing insurance if you lost your job or wanted to transfer to another company that does not offer benefits.

We would attract doctors. We would have the peace of mind and greater economic security of knowing our health, and our neighbors’ health, is a priority every bit as much as our police and our fire departments keep our towns safe.

Please join us and the several organizations interested in re-introducing Act 48 into our public and political discourse. We would appreciate hearing from you in our efforts to work with all organizations, however small, as well as individuals, knowing it is time to put the subject of universal health care back into our political life. We can find the expertise of people who can do this. Please email Rayann802@gmail.com.

Ann Raynolds, of Pomfret, is a psychologist licensed in Vermont and New Hampshire. She has served on the medical school faculties of Harvard, Boston University and Dartmouth.




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