Republicans break out badges in move to become health care police

House and Senate Republicans have accused Gov. Peter Shumlin of violating state law by failing to tell Vermonters how he plans to pay for single-payer health care.

Legislation signed into law by the Democratic governor in 2009 included a provision calling for the recommendation of a single-payer financing mechanism by Jan. 15 of this year. Administration officials say the mandate was rendered unnecessary by a shifting federal landscape that postponed for at least three years any hope of implementing the publicly financed system.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, however, said Vermonters are looking answers, not excuses.

“Businesses need to have the information necessary to make important decisions for themselves and their employees,” Benning, a Caledonia County Republican, said during a Statehouse press conference Thursday morning. “We need to have a clear understanding of what the game plan is, and at present we don’t have that game plan.”

Jeb SpauldingAdministration Secretary Jeb Spaulding dismissed the GOP attack as a “stunt.” The administration last week unveiled a highly anticipated report on single-payer; Spaulding said the administration had explained to lawmakers in advance that it would not include any specific recommendations for financing. He said reasonable people agree that it makes no sense to design a financing system for a program that won’t begin until 2017.

“These are people who want to undermine the effort to move to a single-payer system and are looking for any opportunity they can get to confuse people and erode support,” Spaulding said. “Issuing a specific plan at this stage of the game would not in any way help Vermonters understand what a new system would look like or what the options are to pay for it.”

For a deeper look at Republicans’ grievances, and whether they have any merit, check out the full story in today’s edition of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.