Vermont faces a medical crisis on multiple levels. Aside from the challenges of a largely rural state attracting top-notch medical professionals, we now heap upon it the proposed state-government controls of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s health-care reform.
While communicating with Rutland City Treasurer Wendy Wilton about a letter to the editor she penned, regarding Gov. Shumlin’s single-payer plan and how the state will pay for it all, she also noted that doctors are quietly fading from the scene in Vermont.
Wilton, the no-nonsense financial policewoman guarding the City of Rutland’s finances, is not afraid to apply her financial logic to the governor’s health-care plans.
Of course, the cost details of the governor’s health-care plans probably won’t be seen until 2013. So, why the delay?
Now the governor’s plans are viewed through a glass darkly, which is always the case when the political class is asked to reveal the long-term costs of social-tinkering plans (just as we have seen with Obamacare’s thousands of pages of restrictions and regulations that even proponents sheepishly admit to never have read word-for-word).
Wilton proposed a very telling question: What will happen to Vermont doctors under Gov. Shumlin’s health-care reform?
According to Wilton, “My doctor informed me recently that he will have to change his business concept or leave the profession, as the fiscal demands of insurance and government-funded health care programs (especially Medicaid) are squeezing his practice.”
She went on to say that, “Nearly 30 percent of Vermont’s population is covered by some form of Medicaid, which reimburses physicians and hospitals at very low rates. That’s a big cost shift to try to make up on private insurance, which is also trying to hold the line on rate increases. Sadly, he’s one of the best doctors and a dedicated professional — he just can’t carry the ball any longer.”
Wilton’s personal lament is heard across the state.
Indeed, where are all the doctors going to go once Shumlincare becomes a reality here? The likelihood of health-care rationing in Vermont is finally dawning on many local doctors.
“Green Mountain Care will essentially be Medicaid/Medicare for all,” Wilton said. “Where will the cost shift go? This is the essential reason why the governor’s plan will cost more and cannot cost less without serious rationing, regardless of any savings we can achieve. Having disclosure on the financial plan sooner than 2013 is important for Vermonters to understand the impact of these changes.”
The Rutland County area has lost several prominent primary care physicians since 2009, according to Wilton: Doctors Bucksbaum, Emerson, Garcia, Krupnick, Messina, and Tager (plus add to that list Wilton’s own primary care physician).
“Older docs are going to close up shop as they retire and won’t be replaced,” Wilton noted. “Some of the recent doctor out-migration has been due to financial pressure and uncertainty created by state policies. Rutland Regional Medical Center has long been concerned about the difficulties of attracting new physicians outside of Fletcher Allen; that’s likely true throughout the state.”
In short, attracting and keeping a skilled physician resource in Vermont is essential to our access to quality health care.
“Canada rations care by instituting global (capped) budgets and restricting the number of practicing physicians and other health-care professionals,” Wilton added.
So is this the kind of government-controlled health care we really want in Vermont? If Gov. Shumlin and his majority in Montpelier gets its way, the answer will be yes.