The disaster that stubbornly refuses to be disastrous

Oh, it’s just one piece of bad news after another for our “trouble-plagued” Vermont Health Connect.

Well, you’d think so if you got all your information from certain media outlets. Seven Days’ Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz apparently spent a good chunk of last week foaming at the mouth about the deceptively rosy picture painted by Governor Shumlin in recent months. And he ended the week by grudgingly listing VHC as a “winner” (although he added a big, only partly relevant, caveat) while listing the Governor as his top “loser” for having, in the mind of Heintz, “lost any remaining credibility he might have had with the press corps.”

Over the top much?

We will return to the Huntsman, but now we skip on to the Freeploid’s Nancy Remsen, who penned an article allegedly covering the ups and downs of VHC. The story, of course, spent very little time on the ups while painstakingly lingering over the downs. Roughly one-quarter of the entire story recounted, blow by blow, the bad experience of one single Vermonter. This, after briefly mentioning the news that VHC enrollment numbers are climbing steadily and that, in Shumlin’s words, “We are making great progress.”  

But for those fortunate enough to have access to the Mitchell Family Organ, Peter “Radio Killed the Newsprint Star” Hirschfeld provides a balanced overview of the state of health care reform:

Much has been made of all the tumult surrounding the rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act.

But for a significant swath of the Vermont population, the arrival of the new law has brought with it the solution to many of their health care problems.

Revised income eligibility limits mean that about 40,000 residents of the state have become newly eligible for Medicaid… for many of the clients served by advocates like Peter Sterling, executive director of the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security, the changes will mean the difference between having insurance or not.

And there’s the real point, and the real victory of reform: a whole lot of people will now have health care security. Many will have access for the first time, and everyone will have access to insurance plans that meet solid standards. Those good things, and more, are happening regardless of the temporary troubles of the VHC website.

Indeed, as I’ve previously reported in this space, Vermont has been the most successful state in the country — and it’s not even close.

But let’s go back to Paul Heintz, the Huntsman who’s gone to sea and morphed into Captain Ahab, pursuing the Great White Whale of VHC “disaster” and Shumlin deceptiveness.  

The Huntsman’s high dudgeon was triggered by a gubernatorial press conference at which Shumlin claimed he’d been open and honest about the state of VHC.

Which is, of course, not true. Shumlin spent most of 2013 as VHC’s #1 salesman, accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative — or at least doing his best to sweep it under the rug.

This is where Shumlin’s worst qualities shine brightest. He always acts like a salesman for his own policies, often transparently so. And he refuses to admit that he’s ever wrong, or that he failed to tell the whole truth. Which bit him in the ass at last week’s presser, as he endlessly parried reporters’ questions and narrowly parsed the meaning of words, phrases, and reports. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s often cringe-worthy.

So yeah, Heintz is right: Shumlin did a sales job on health care reform, downplayed any problems, and refused to admit he’d done anything wrong.

But that’s not an impeachable offense. It’s what politicians do.

Shumlin does it more brazenly than some others. But Heintz’ Captain Ahab act is an extreme overreaction. Governor Shumlin has lost some credibility. But he’ll gain it back and more, if health care reform continues to progress.

Heintz ends his tirade with a reference to VHC as a “train-wreck,” which is farther from the truth about health care reform than anything the Governor has said. And while Heintz has dutifully chronicled the missteps and problems, he has written little or nothing about the positive side of the story.

Which dramatically outweighs the negative. And that ain’t spin; it’s the simple truth.  

3 thoughts on “The disaster that stubbornly refuses to be disastrous

  1. when Anya Rader-Wallack bailed it wasn’t good, Shumlin also seemed rather quiet around that time which fueled part of my suspicions.

    The problems and missteps have been widely reported. Knowing about the glaring problems & acting as if everything is just fine while also somewhat misleading the press is partly why the story is so big and while we know they all lie & whether impeachable or not it shows what many suspected, that there are inherent flaws. It also means that Mr. “word-is-bond” Shumlin and anyone else who was similarly untruthful now have no credibility.  

    The reality of the good-ness of the news is unverifiable unless we know the stats re who is signing up. Although it is great news that previously ill & low-income individuals are now better served, if that alone constitutes the many who are becoming enrolled it is unsurprising as they are the primary beneficiaries.    

  2. She’s working on resubmitting my application, which went badly awry when I misinterpreted one of the online questions.

    Frankly, from my own personal experience, I’m pretty impressed with the responsiveness of VHC.

    I think whomever laid out the application website should consider a new career;

    however, that is just one small piece of a much bigger program; and it is the responsiveness of the human drivers that determines how well VHC will serve our needs in the long-haul.

    I am certainly not ready to throw stones at VHC, which, as JV has noted is leading almost the whole of the rest of the country in successful enrollments.

    There will be plenty to complain about…there always is; but it is bringing healthcare to a huge swath of previously uncovered Vermonters and that is something I won’t neglect to celebrate.

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