by Rob Roper (May, 2011)
Governor Peter Shumlin spent the legislative session assuring Vermonters that his Green Mountain Health plan will succeed where other governments, state and national, have “gotten this wrong every single time” because this time we’re going to put really smart people in charge.
So, it’s worth taking a look at who these exceptional people capable of pulling the rabbit out of the hat are. One place to start is the six members who served as conferees to resolve the differences between the House and Senate Versions of the bill.
From the House:
Rep. Mark Larson (D-Burlington) is the Chairman of the House Health Care Committee. Larson stated repeatedly that he believes moving forward with this legislation will save Vermont $1 trillion over the next ten years – or, in other words, 180 years worth of health care costs at current levels. Despite having several opportunities to do so, he has never recanted this absurd claim (and, instead, repeated it). Outside of the State House, Larson, a “domestic violence counselor”, works as director of the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative and is a consultant to the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Rep. Michael Fisher (D-Lincoln) is the Vice Chairman of the House Health Care Committee. Fisher was one of the representatives who, though not a doctor, admitted that he took the doctors’ survey put out by Representative George Till MD. This was an attempt to find out exactly what Vermont’s medical community really thinks about single payer. Fisher’s actions, along with others, contaminated the results of the survey. Fisher is an outreach social worker for the Addison County Parent/Child Center working with teenage parents and their children.
Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford) is a substitute teacher (trained as a secondary science teacher), who, according to her bio, works “occasionally in the family business.” Speaker Shap Smith explained that his choice of Copeland-Hanzas was due, in part, to her experience as a small business owner of a coffee shop. That the Democratic Speaker had to make so deep a reach into his caucus to find someone with small business experience is telling.
From the Senate:
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), chairwoman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. She is a registered nurse with a degree in environmental studies from Middlebury College. At the press conference announcing agreement on the bill by the conference committee, Ayer commented that as a nurse working in a doctor’s office she thought the system was “just fine,” and “working just great.” Only after nine years under the Golden Dome listening to special interest groups and lobbyists did she come to realize that it was broken and had to be totally replaced.
Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden) sits on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. She is an attorney with an AB degree in social work who has specialized in family and correctional law. She is married to Michael Sirotkin, a veteran lobbyist whose clients include the nurses’ union and a senior citizens group, both supporting universal health care; a “patient directed dying” group; and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) also sits on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. He was the only Republican to vote in favor of H.202. He did so only after adoption of his amendment requiring that Green Mountain Care could only go forward if the Green Mountain Care Board that created it determined that its creation would not harm the economy, would reduce costs based on the national rate of inflation for health care, its financing would be “ fair, equitable, and sustainable”; and all Vermonters would receive an adequate level of benefits. Mullin has a degree in business and finance from Castleton State College and owns a drive-in movie theater.
It is important that we respect the deep commitment and personal sacrifice our legislators make to represent us. It is also important to recognize the limitations of people with unrelated experience, working part time within a highly politicized environment to address complex problems that, in this case, will seriously affect the lives, liberties, and pocketbooks of six hundred thousand Vermonters.
Honestly, if you were the head of a $5 billion health care corporation, would you hire any of these people to run it?