Recessive gene proved dominant

September 21, 2014


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Chuck Gregory, who is a member of the Springfield Town Democratic Committee, a volunteer with the Vermont Workers’ Center, and Valley Court Diversion.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but Republican Randy Brock’s recent VTDigger pieces — “Out of the Frying Pan,” (Aug. 6), an attempt to tarnish the reputation of OptumInsight as a zombie version of its corporate criminal predecessor, Ingenix, and “You can’t get there from here” (Sept. 4) an intended lampoon of both Vermont Health Connect and the single payer health care system– indicate a Republican mindset apparently incapable of clearly seeing profound challenges.

Brock’s incomprehension of the health care situation facing Vermont parallels that of Gov. Jim Douglas in 2003, when huge increases in drug prices were starting to hit Vermont seniors between the eyes. The response of our then-congressman Bernie Sanders was to organize bus trips to Canada for them to buy affordable medicines. Gov. Douglas’ response, however, was to air a public service ad telling them, “Do what I do; ask for the generic brand.”

That shortsightedness displayed in 2003 is apparently a genetic defect transmitted by Republicans. It surfaced again in April 2006, when Vermont’s energy prices were going through the roof and five PacGen hydro plants on the Connecticut were available for purchase. At the Vermont Natural Resources Council conference in Putney Gov. Douglas rejected the idea that Vermont buy them. Present in the audience was environmentalist Amory Lovins, who forcefully urged Douglas to pursue the purchase. Weathersfield resident and solar power entrepreneur Dave Bonta was there: “I remember it well — Amory also called for wind generators too …” Bonta remembers that Lovins gave Douglas a copy of his latest book about energy issues, but when the governor left the podium, he abandoned the book there.

In his last year of office, Gov. Douglas was asked by a caller to the Vermont Public Radio “Midday Edition” show how he felt about the hydro purchase decision, and Douglas frankly admitted, “We dropped the ball on that one.”

So in 2014, rather than work with the Shumlin administration to ensure an efficacious repair of Vermont Health Connect’s admissions process and a smooth path to universal health care, Brock looked backward and wrote a misleading piece about CGI’s successor, OptumInsight, which Brock got all wrong: Its present board might contain typical Wall Street criminals, but nine of them have not yet been proven to be so, since they were all hired after the egg hit the fan in 2008, and it’s quite likely the other half are of equal merit — eight were hired at times not cited in the OptumInsight website, and its CEO was hired in 2008, when the lawsuit was either launched or in progress.

How long have the Republicans been ignoring the opportunity for better health coverage for all Vermonters? At least since that Putney conference in 2006. Dave Bonta remembered: “… and I actually recall Amory saying Vermont could sell its extra electric capacity to Massachusetts and provide for Vermonters’ health care with the sale of the green power.” Clearly, the Democrats are focusing their 20-20 vision for a better future.