Originally published at The Burlington Free Press.
It is not often I find time to write to the local paper, but Douglas Greg's My Turn piece ("Health care your responsibility," May 11) simply cannot go without retort. His ad hominem attacks and distortions of simple facts do his readers a great disservice.
For those readers who may have missed the article, Mr. Greg argues, in response to a health care activist campaign led by the Vermont Workers' Center, that health care should not be treated as a human right.
But before he even gives readers a chance to be taken seriously, he resorts to juvenile -- and borderline shameful -- meanderings.
Mr. Greg writes that after he saw a group of pro-health care activists on the road he "figured that maybe they were fans of a local sporting event" since "half of the group were kids." But, much to his displeasure, he learns they are pro-health care activists and immediately dismisses them as crazy lefties with "blood for oil" signs.
Everyone needs a hobby," he concludes.
It is rather astounding that in one paragraph Greg manages to dismiss all health care activists, young people and anti-war activists as unworthy of being taken seriously. More astounding is that the rest of his piece proves to show that the same critique could be applied to him in a far more convincing way.
His insistence that Catamount Health, Dr. Dynosaur and the Vermont Health Access plan -- three psuedo-public programs that offer subsidized health care to needy Vermonters -- "are essentially free to those who need it" is an unambiguous falsehood.
To give just one example, Catamount Health is anything but free. Even those with no income must pay a small premium, and someone making short of $30,000 a year still must come up with $160 a month for insurance plus deductibles and co-pays. This can be rather cost-prohibitive for people just barely getting by on service-sector jobs. These plans also do nothing to control costs -- which are escalating well past the rate of inflation -- whereas a public plan would cut costs dramatically.
Further, if Vermont already had "basically free" universal insurance, how does he explain that 11 percent of Vermonters -- including, unforgivably, thousands of children -- have no insurance at all?
Now, if Greg would prefer that for-profit private insurers with virtually no accountability handle our health care system, rather than the citizens of Vermont, that is his prerogative. But he could at least refrain from misleading readers about the economic costs of a public plan, as opposed to the current private system.
Due to corporate profits and administrative waste, private insurance is actually far more expensive than a public system. According to a study commissioned by the Legislature in 2006, Vermont would save $51 million a year if it implemented a single-payer health care system. Indeed, contrary to the doctrinaire assumptions of Greg and other free-market absolutists, single-payer is far more fiscally conservative than what we currently have.
I do hope and suspect readers of the Free Press see past the misinformation put forth in that piece and at least consider a more human health care system that leaves no one behind.
Michael Corcoran lives in South Burlington.