Opponents of the Legislature’s health-care bill hit the airwaves today with a radio ad that urges lawmakers to “slow down” their reform efforts.
The 60-second spot, paid for by the newly formed group Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, features both the high production value and cautionary tone of the negative campaign ads heard during last summer’s gubernatorial race.
“Ever heard the saying measure twice and cut once? You don’t make a rash decision until you have all the facts. But that’s what the Vermont Legislature wants to do.”
The female narrator – an ominous music track playing in the background – goes on to say the health-care bill could “destroy the private insurance market” and “destroy jobs.”
According to Vermonters for Health Care Freedom founder Darcie Johnston, the spot was produced by On Message, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based marketing firm.
“The intent is to educate Vermonters and get them involved, get them to contact their legislators,” Johnston says.
Johnston’s nonprofit has a 501c4 designation, which allows it to collect financial contributions while keeping the identity of the donors secret. Johnston says the group has raised about $15,000 so far. Though she won’t identify the group’s patrons, she says all the money has come from inside Vermont’s borders.
Anya Rader Wallack, special assistant to the governor on health care, says Vermonters ought to know who’s funding the effort.
“The frontline issue is who are these people? Is this evidence of out of state interests coming in here to influence what’s going on? Is it evidence of people who are making money off the current system and want to maintain the status quo,” Rader Wallack says. “We should know something about who’s trying to influence this process.”
As to the heart of the ad’s claims – that the health-care reform bill will compel doctors, businesses and jobs to flee the state – Rader Wallack says the charges are based on a “combination of misunderstanding, misrepresentation and distrust.”
Many of the concerns she’s heard from businesses, Rader Wallack says, center around new ground rules for insurance benefits in the health-care exchange being set up by the reform bill. In fact most of those new ground rules, she says, are enacted not by the state bill but by the federal Affordable Care Act signed into law last.
“Rules change for all employers under the federal law, whether they’re inside the exchange or outside the exchange,” she says.
The radio spot also hits on unanswered questions about the cost and financing of the single-payer system envisioned in the reform bill.
Rader Wallack says those questions will be answered as the reform effort moves through a multi-year process.
“We are going to in a responsible and timely manner provide answers to all the questions that have been raised,” Rader Wallack says. “Before the Legislature has to actually adopt a single-payer plan, they will understand the costs, the likely savings, the source of financing, the impact on businesses large and small, and the impact on the provider market.”
Given the skyrocketing cost of health-insurance premiums, Rader Wallack says, Vermont can’t afford to “slow down” reform efforts.
“We say, ‘are you kidding? Slow down?’” Rader Wallack says. “We’ve got to start working on this right away.”
Johnston says the radio ad will run on several stations and reach a statewide audience. Johnston doesn’t have an exact membership figure for Vermonters for Health Care Freedom but says the group “is growing every day.”