Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lynne Herbst

The Mount Holly Library has an HP Laser Jet 4000 printer in good working condition that we no longer need.  It was donated to us and we happy to give to someone who needs a printer.  Come by the library during open hours (Mon. & Wed. 3 to 7, Sat 9 to 1 and Sun. 2 to 4) or call 259-3707 if you are interested.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

As a Vermont Voter

Hello Dennis,
As a Vermont voter, I just wanted to write to lend my voice to the conversation regarding how our legislature will/should vote on the outcome of the recent gubernatorial race. Until I read the news 12-17-14, I had made my peace with the fact that Peter Shumlin would remain our governor. I did not vote for him, but he clearly won a plurality of the popular vote, and with a heavily democratic state government there was (and likely still is) little to no chance that he would not be confirmed by the general assembly. However, given the bombshell that was dropped on Vermonters this week, I feel compelled to speak up.
I don't care how the administration attempts to explain this away, I will never be convinced that, after four long years of research and planning, the exorbitant and insurmountable costs of single-payer healthcare and the taxes required to fund it were not know until a week ago. I am not that stupid and neither are the citizens of Vermont. I truly believe that the timing of this announcement was strategic deception to help mitigate any harm that might have been done to our governor's bid for re-election had this news been revealed before votes were cast. This is disgusting and manipulative political gamesmanship at its worst, and our state and it's citizens deserve better.
I did not vote for Scott Milne either (I supported Dan Feliciano), however I believe that Milne would have won a plurality, if not a majority, of the votes cast had the cost and subsequent abandonment of single-payer healthcare been disclosed before the election. Furthermore, Dan Feliciano's candidacy was primarily based on a steadfast opposition to single-payer healthcare. Had this issue been off the table, I would venture to guess that Dan would have likely rethought making a run for office without the nomination of the Vermont GOP. While one can only speculate as to how Feliciano supporters would have voted without Dan in the race, and it is likely his votes would have been split between Shumlin, Milne, and those who would have foregone casting a gubernatorial vote altogether (such as myself), historical trends in Libertarian voting habits suggest that far more of those votes would have gone to Milne than Shumlin.
Considering the apparent underhandedness of our presumed governor-elect, the likelihood that an honest disclosure of facts would have greatly impacted the outcome of the election, and the fact that a majority of Vermonters did not support our incumbent governor's bid for re-election, I would encourage you and your legislative peers to carefully consider voting for the candidate who carried a plurality in the majority of voting districts, won the majority of counties, and beat Shumlin in the popular vote for House districts, 53-51. As I have already said, I did not vote for Scott Milne (nor do I feel enthusiastic about him even today) and was resigned to Shumlin's impending re-election. But given recent events, I honestly believe that Scott Milne ought to be the recipient of support from our state's general assembly.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns and opinions on this matter, and thank you for your continued service to our state.
Oh, and remember this?
Joe McDonald

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Friendship, It Means Everything"

"Friendship, It Means Everything" Is a piece I began to write in the summer. It has a medium tempo and a repetitive melody. This piece also has a few dissonance spots. Some spots are meant to be more exaggerate than others. It is based on a friendship, it is calm in the beginning, and where it gets louder and more exaggerate, it is the part of the friendship where there are fights and arguments, but in the end, it calms down, and goes back to normal. Just like a true friendship is. Friends fight but if they are true friends then no fight will break them up forever, and no matter what, they are always there for each other.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oct. Mountain Bike Ride through the Green Mtns of Mount Holly,VT.

House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Jonathan Gruber’s Documents and Work Products, including Vermonts's.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Health Care Reform Newsletter #42
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom continues our newsletter series on Vermont’s health care reform efforts.  We dig deep through national and local media coverage, to bring honest reporting to our client businesses and newsletter recipients.  We focus on Vermont’s push for a “single payer” health care system, and the problems inherent in such a system.  We also report on the federal Obamacare law and Vermont’s health benefit exchange.  No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.
Breaking News:                 
     House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Jonathan Gruber’s Documents and Work Products, including Vermonts's.
In This Issue:
  • Gruber’s  Health Care Modeling  Has Failed  For Colorado, Massachusetts,  Minnesota,  and the Feds
  • VT Senator Tim Ashe Calls For Universal Health Care First, Single Payer Later
  • Early Estimates on Single Payer Income Taxes 
Quotes of the Week:
“Congress will not recognize a state’s assertion of executive privilege.  It simply does not apply.  The state has no say in the matter.”  
Brady Toensing, Vermont-based attorney with expertise in executive privilege, who has represented clients in high profile Congressional investigations, including the Clinton White House pardon, commenting on Governor Shumlin’s attempts to keep single payer details under wraps
“They said the great thing about using the Gruber model instead of the standard econometric model is that we’re going to use a lot of survey data.  They basically set up a representative population and said this is how people behave based on surveys.  That kind of thing works really badly for a small state like Colorado. His models can’t be relied upon for policy.  They’re not ready for prime time.”
Linda Gorman, Director Health Care Policy Center at the Independence Institute on Colorado, commenting on the fact that Gruber’s economic modeling has cost her state an additional $800m.
Changing from a premium system right now… a tax-financed system, has nothing to do with providing another person insurance.  It has nothing to do with saving money in the system.  It has nothing to do with global hospital budgets.  It has nothing to do with increasing the quality of care.  It has nothing to do with any of that.”
Senator Tim Ashe, Chair, Vermont Senate Finance Committee
Gruber Subpoenaed For Vermont Documents and Work Products
Things went from bad to worse for Jonathan Gruber last week.   After he refused to answer questions before the House Government Oversight Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa issued a subpoena demanding that Gruber produce all documents relating to his consulting work for the Feds and any state governments.  That means Gruber must produce all of the Vermont single payer documents that Governor Shumlin has so far refused to divulge, citing “executive privilege”.  
Vermont courts recently ruled that the single payer work product may be exempted from disclosure by executive privilege.   However, Congress will not recognize a state’s assertion of executive privilege, according to legal expert Brady Toensing.  “It simply does not apply.  The state has no say in the matter.  If Gruber does not comply, he will be risking criminal contempt”, Toensing says.  “Congress has a broad and inherent Constitutional prerogative to investigate anything that enables it to carry out its legislative function.”
The subpoena seeks all documents and communications referring to or related tofunding – for research or otherwise – from any federal, state or local government agency, including any contracts with federal state or local government agencies.  It also seeks work that Gruber created, as well as communications related to the ACA and federal and state exchanges. 
Gruber’s Health Care Micro simulation hasn’t worked
Jonathan Gruber’s stated belief that a “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage”, is coming home to roost.  Last week Gruber was taken out behind the woodshed by the House Government Oversight Committee, in a grueling 4-hour session.  As Gruber testified about the deception and lack of transparency used to push the Obamacare legislation through in 2010, both his integrity and his data modeling were called into question.  When he asserted, “No one has ever questioned my data modeling”, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa responded, “I’m questioning it”. 
The states of Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota are questioning it too.
Colorado:  VHCF has just learned that Gruber’s micro simulation modeling for Colorado was significantly understated, and is currently costing Colorado an additional $800m.  In 2011, Colorado decided to set up its own health care exchange and hired Gruber to forecast enrollment trends.  Using his predictive modeling tool (GMSIM), Gruber predicted that Medicaid enrollments would increase from 440,000 in 2011 to 710,000 in 2016.  By 2014, Colorado’s Medicaid enrollment had already grown to 1,100,000, and it is still growing.   At a taxpayer cost of $2,000 per enrollee, this miscalculation has left Colorado’s budget $800m in the hole so far. 
In addition, Gruber’s GMSIM model vastly overestimated enrollment numbers for Colorado’s exchange plans, Gruber’s simulations showed that by 2016, Colorado could expect 470,000 people enrolled in a subsidized plan and 150,000 in an unsubsidized plan.   Data for 2014 shows only 16% of the 470,000, or 75,067 enrollees in the subsidized plan - and 35% of the 150,000, or 52,165 in the unsubsidized plan. 
Massachusetts:    Then-Governor Mitt Romney also relied upon Gruber’s micro simulation model to implement the Massachusetts Health Connector, or Romneycare.   As with all of Gruber’s work, the modeling relies on assumptions.  Gruber’s assumptions underestimatedenrollment numbers for subsidized coverage.  As a result, Massachusetts has had to raise taxes, copays and premiums to cover the shortfall.
Minnesota:  VHCF has just learned that a Minnesota state lawmaker is asking the state’s attorney general for recovery of $330,000 paid to Gruber between 2011 and 2013.  As reported in TwinCitiesNews on November 24, 2014, Gruber was under contract in Minnesota to help the state generate enrollment and other predictions, so that the state could assess the impact of their state exchange, MNsure, on insurance coverage, prices and the state budget.   
According to Minnesota Rep. Greg Davids, Gruber’s contract called for him to deliver an updated report by October 2012 which was not delivered until February 2013.  Gruber’s enrollment and other predictions vary significantly from actual experience in the state’s first year of operation, and MNsure no longer relies on them.  Gruber was required to destroy all non-public data in his possession after the work was completed, but there has been no public confirmation that he has done so.
Rep. Davids cites a state law that allows the attorney general to recover payment in cases where the product rendered to the state is “so unsatisfactory, incomplete or inconsistent that payment would involve unjust enrichment”.
The Feds:  The Gruber Micro simulation Model also misled the federal government.    Before the Affordable Care Act became law, Gruber published a widely-quoted analysis using his GMSIM.  His model predicted that premiums would decrease once Obamacare became law.  Gruber predicted that by 2016, young people would save 13% on their insurance premiums, and older people 31%.    By 2012, however, Gruber had reversed course and began informing Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado that Obamacare would instead increaseindividual premiums by 19% to 30%. 
What Now?  After the release of the damaging Gruber videos, the Shumlin administration sought to distance itself from Gruber by asserting that he would only serve as a “calculator” for single payer financing.    That does not bode well for Vermonters.
UVM economist Art Woolf says that economic models have their limits.  They generally do not work for large scale modeling, and they break down when trying to predict behavior or rapid structural change, which is exactly what Gruber’s GMSIM purports to do. 
The discrepancies in Gruber‘s predictions for Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota cannot be ignored. Gruber’s modelling has failed significantly on many levels, from botched enrollment numbers to overinflated cost savings predictions.  Vermont has asked Gruber to do the same work in which these failures occurred.  He is charged with predicting single payer enrollment, including the wild card – the number of ERISA plan enrollees who do not have to participate.  Most critically, Gruber is charged with predicting the cost of single payer. Economist Woolf says, “Whatever numbers they come up with are subject to a very large margin of error”, and suggests that the margin could be as high as 20% to 30%.
Clearly a tiny state like Vermont cannot afford to rely on Gruber’s micro simulation model.   Even one costing or enrollment error can throw our entire state economy into an irreversible tailspin.   The state budget is already $100m in the hole for FY16, on top of the $48m in budget cuts so far in FY15.   
Vermont is exactly where these states were when they bought into the Gruber model.  We are uniquely positioned to avoid the same mistakes.   At a minimum, the House Health Care Committee must call the appropriate officials in Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota to testify about their adverse experiences with the Gruber micro simulation model.  It is time for Vermont’s “Plan B” for universal health care, as VHCF has said for over a year.
Senator Tim Ashe Calls for Universal Health Care First, Maybe Single Payer Later
A key Vermont Senator is concerned that the push for single payer might jeopardize the goal of universal health care for all Vermonters.   Senator Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told VPR News that the Legislature’s main focus should be making sure every Vermonter has health insurance first, before tackling a complete disruption of the health care system.  Senator Ashe is correctly focused on the less than 1% of Vermonters who currently do not have coverage, approximately 47,000.  He is also very concerned about the significant impact that a single payer payroll tax will have on small businesses.  “You might put small businesses out of business”, says Ashe.  
Ashe believes that the path to universal coverage should be free of the significant political hurdles that confront single payer.   He says that the Legislature ought to spend the upcoming session devising a means of achieving universal coverage, rather than slogging through the pros and cons of the single payer plan that Governor Shumlin is supposed to present at the end of this month.  Sen. Ashe has a point, based on the documented inaccuracies in Gruber’s calculations for other states.
Single Payer Income Tax Estimates
Vermont economist Art Woolf has reviewed the recently proposed 8% payroll tax for single payer.  Unfortunately, the payroll tax would be just enough to pay for half of single payer’s projected cost.  Raising the 8% payroll tax any higher would place an impossible burden on Vermont’s businesses and drive many out of the state.  So where will the other $1 billion come from?   Mr. Woolf has estimated the impact on Vermonter taxpayers if we have the pay the balance:
Simply put, single payer would more than double Vermonters’ state income taxes, and cost Vermont businesses significant amounts based on their employees’ incomes.  Mr. Woolf says that in order to raise the other $1 billion for health care, the state would need to raise 150% of what it now raises in personal income taxes.  And that’s on top of the current income tax. 
Woolf points out that Vermonters earn about $13 billion in wages, but total income is about $17 billion.  An income tax could capture some of the additional $4 billion, but a payroll tax cannot.  A small number of upper income Vermonters, about 8,000, pay 40% of all the money the state collects.  They would likely be required to pay at least 40% of the new income taxes, and probably more, needed for single payer.    Right now, a high income Vermont taxpayer is capped at 8.95% in state taxes.  Mr. Woolf says that if his estimates are correct, or even close, high income Vermonters will be paying about 15% of their income to the state and face a marginal tax rate in the high teens.  No other state even comes close to this.
This legislative session promises to be a fast-paced and divisive one.  VHCF will, as always, keep our readers updated on the latest single payer news.  Check out our website at:
A Message from Vermonters for Health Care Freedom (VHCF)
There is no doubt that the well-funded single payer groups and Governor Shumlin would like to see VHCF go away.  But we cannot -  and, with your help, we will not.
VHCF is the sole voice of public dissention -  in a sea of single payer government-run health care advocates.  We represent  folks like you, who have not “drunk the Kool-Aid”.   No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.  There are many well-funded groups on the other side, spending a lot of money to bring about single payer.  But VHCF receives no funding from the big-money groups.   We are a grass-roots organization that relies completely on supporter donations to remain in business. 
We are grateful for the support we have received, but without continuing support from grassroots Vermonters, we cannot continue to be effective at preventing Governor Shumlin and his like-minded friends from implementing a single payer health plan by 2017.
Thank you to those of you who have recently contributed and supported VHCF efforts.
If you haven't yet made a 2014 donation, please take a moment now to give generously, by clicking the link below, or sending a contribution to:   Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, PO Box 1515, Montpelier, VT 05601. 
Thank you.
Darcie L. Johnston
Founder, VHCF

Thursday, December 4, 2014

."Tootsie" Next FOLA Movie December 6 in Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium


Ralph Pace

"Tootsie" Next FOLA Movie December 6 in Ludlow Town Hall Auditorium
FOLA (Friends of Ludlow Auditorium) will present its next movie, "Tootsie", on Saturday, December 6 at 7 pm at Luldow town Hall Auditorium.
Tootsie is an American comedy-drama film that tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman to land a job. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman, with a supporting cast that includes Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis (in her acting debut), Bill Murray, Doris Belack and producer/director Sydney Pollack.
Michael Dorsey is an unemployed actor with an impossible reputation. In order to find work and fund his friend's play he dresses as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, and lands the part in a daytime drama. Dorsey loses himself in this woman role and essentially becomes Dorothy Michaels, captivating women all around the city and inspiring them to break free from the control of men and become more like Dorsey's initial identity. This newfound role, however, lands Dorsey in a hot spot between a female friend/'lover,' a female co-star he falls in love with, that co-star's father who falls in love with him, and a male co-star who yearns for his affection.

Jessica Lange won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Julie Nichols. The movie earned a total of ten Academy Awards nominations and in 2000 the American Film Institute ranked Tootsie as the second funniest film of all time.
The movie is free; donations are appreciated.  Popcorn will be supplied by Berkshire Bank.  For information, call 228-7239.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Your care is going to be rationed

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Green Mountain Care: Rationing by Any Other Name
Robert S. Emmons, M.D.
Duxbury, Vermont
Vermont lawmakers will soon get to the task of deciding how much your taxes must go up to fund a 2.5 billion dollar health care budget. That’s bad enough, but to add to your misery, you will also pay in the form of medical care withheld, thanks to the Green Mountain Care Board. At the update on health care reform delivered to the legislature on November 19, GMCB Chair Al Gobeille boasted that Vermont has more authority to regulate the practice of medicine than any other state: “That gives us the tools to do good work.”Documents available online at the board’s website detail plans for a system that takes decision-making power out of the hands of patients and their doctors, all in the name of cost containment.
The state’s health information technology plan envisions a database that will link your electronic record to all state departments and a federal data hub, with no provision for you to opt out of this data collection. Under Vermont’s plan for “payment reform,”your doctor will be monitored electronically to see if she is complying with state-approved clinical practice guidelines—selected for cost-containment purposes—and she will be penalized financially if your individual medical circumstances require a different treatment approach (“pay for performance”). Even if your care has been tweaked to meet all guidelines, if you are simply so ill that the cost of your care busts a budget set by state or federal actuaries, your physician will be expected to share the economic pain with third-party payers (“shared savings”and “episodic”payment). Green Mountain Care is Managed Care 2.0, a complex system of third-party financial incentives that undermine the independent professional judgment of physicians. It matters not to the patient whether the unwelcome intruder is a commercial insurer or the state.
On top of all that, a key element of the state’s plan to “bend the medical cost curve”is to reduce pay to doctors: the GMCB has unlimited authority to set fees for all clinicians and hospitals, including doctors like me who do not bill third-party payers. The target is Medicaid-level fees for all. If Vermont pays medical professionals less than their real value in a national market, then we cannot recruit or retain them, and you will have to wait longer for appointments when you are sick.
Practice guidelines, global budgets (either for the entire state or for individual hospital systems), and wait lists are all methods of rationing care, without calling it by its real name. In his recent presentation, Chairman Gobeille stated several times that appropriation of funds is a function separate from payment and delivery of services. I beg to differ. Here is how medical care will be rationed in Vermont, step by step: (1) public outcry and lobbying will pressure legislators to (slightly) lower tax rates; (2) lower tax revenues will lead to a (slightly) smaller appropriation for health care; (3) a smaller global budget will compel the GMCB to increase the financial penalties for hospitals and doctors when the cost of care overruns the monies available; (4) many of the physicians who are paid less will leave practice in Vermont and the ones left behind will increasingly find themselves diminished from deciders of optimal treatment to messengers of curtailed care; (5) fewer doctors means longer waits for shorter visits; and (6) as treatment is delayed or withheld to meet budgets, patients will get sicker and sometimes die. Green Mountain Care is rebranded managed care funded by a Medicaid-style appropriation process and administered by the folks who brought us Vermont Health Connect, so we need not look too far back in history to foresee our future.
Let’s connect the dots: if Green Mountain Care is implemented as planned under Act 48, then  the pressure to restrain taxes today is inexorably linked to bad clinical outcomes in years to come. As a Vermont citizen, you can protest against higher taxes today, and you might even hold back the floodwaters for a while, but as long as you are corralled in Green Mountain Care, the state will still get you on the back end by reducing your medical care. Central to the execution of this plan is the abridgment of your right to spend your own money to get treatment outside the system. The solution to this problem is to fix it at the patient level, by restoring your legal rights that have been taken away by Act 48. I refer here to your rights vis a vis the state:
1)    Just in case Vermont Health Connect continues to malfunction, and just in case plans available on the exchange use managed care techniques that degrade quality of care, give Vermont citizens the legal right to make real choices by purchasing their own individual  health insurance policies outside the exchange. As it stands now, Vermont citizens do not enjoy that right.
2)    Just in case it turns out that that quality, cost, and wait times get worse under Green Mountain Care, protect the legal right of Vermont citizens to spend their own money to get timely, excellent medical care from independent physicians outside the system. Don’t let the state set fees for private physicians, as that would have the effect of putting them out of practice, thus taking away choices for patients.
3)    Just in case it turns out that health data mining is used in a way that ends up harming patients, give Vermont citizens the unrestricted legal right to say “no,” without penalty, to participation in Vermont’s health database, a right currently denied.
Some readers might ask, if patients are allowed to escape oversight and rationing by Green Mountain Care, then what positive alternative can I offer for reducing medical costs and improving the quality of the patient experience? In my private psychiatric practice where patients pay cash at the time of each visit, I already offer treatment at half the fees charged by the state’s premier Accountable Care Organization. I do not have a waiting list for new appointments, in contrast to who-knows-how-long a wait to see an attending psychiatrist at the Burlington hospital’s outpatient clinic. My friend Keith Smith, M.D., operates a direct-pay outpatient surgery center in Oklahoma City with fees posted online that run 1/5 to 1/10 the average at hospitals nationally. Cutting out the third-party payer saves patients time and money.
As it stands now, the GMCB, through the Certificate of Need process, can deny applications for larger, free-standing outpatient facilities like Dr. Smith’s that can offer high quality care at lower cost than hospitals. Amend the law to prevent state officials from blocking competition in Vermont’s medical marketplace. We in Vermont cannot repeal ObamaCare, but when we can, let’s get the third-party payer out of the patient-physician relationship, and it will not be necessary for the state to ration medical treatment.
Some readers will wonder about the fate of patients left behind in Green Mountain Care because they cannot afford to pay for private medical care. These are the patients I treat at my free clinic. A robust private sector that provides higher quality care will put pressure on the publicly funded system to keep up. Competition is the most effective corrective to the worst excesses of a small group of activists who are willing to trade off your access to optimal medical care in order to achieve their vision of social justice.
In 2013, Vermont Democrats in the House, in a nearly party-line vote, rejected H.331, an amendment introduced by Cynthia Browning that was designed to protect the legal right of citizens to make private financial contracts with doctors of their choice. An unwillingness to accept limits on the state’s authority to intrude with its fee-setting into private medical relationships signals a larger unwillingness to accept any limits on state power in medicine. If the majority party has been genuinely humbled by the results of the last election, then its leaders might look differently at patient rights in the next session. We cannot expect legislators to be able to raise enough taxes to meet the clinical needs of all Vermont patients, and rationing is the primary tool available to the GMCB to deal with the shortfall. Patient rights is the remedy: let’s empower individual patients to protect themselves from the fallible humans in state government who have their moments of grandiosity, calculated opacity, and erring judgment.
Dr. Emmons has maintained a fee-for-service private psychiatric practice in Burlington, Vermont for 25 years, and he is the founder and staff psychiatrist for the Franciscan Free Psychiatric Clinic in Moretown, Vermont. For two decades, he has studied financial conflicts of interest in medicine.

DANCE AND DINE! TOAST the NEW YEAR to Benefit the Vermont Symphony Orchestra!!

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CELEBRATING 80 YEARS!                          
JAIME LAREDO, Music Director                                                                                                                                             FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 3, 2014
Contact:  Amy Caldwell, Marketing Director
                 (802) 864-5741 ext. 16  c. (802) 782-4654
DANCE AND DINE! TOAST the NEW YEAR to Benefit the Vermont Symphony Orchestra!!
Burlington, VT—The Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Champlain Valley Friends of the VSO will host a NEW YEAR’S EVE  festive affair, Symphony Gala on Wednesday, December 31st  in the Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in South Burlington.  The Vermont Symphony Orchestra invites Vermonters to ring in the New Year while slipping into their dancing shoes and twirling on the dance floor to the music of the Vermont Jazz Ensemble.   All proceeds from the event, Vermont’s most elegant evening, will benefit Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s artistic and educational musical programs throughout the state. The annual gala includes a cocktail reception with a Vermont Symphony Orchestra ensemble. An elegant dinner will follow.  A silent auction will be up and going with opportunities for travel, dining and gifts. Dancing will continue until 12:30 am. An elegant and festive toast will highlight the evening.
Besides a beautiful evening of dining and dancing, the Symphony Gala committee is offering special room rates at the Courtyard Marriott Burlington Harbor and the Sheraton Burlington Hotel and Conference Center for those wishing to make a romantic weekend of the affair.  Symphony Gala is open to everyone! 
Tickets for the black-tie Gala are $175 per person  $225 for Silver Patrons, or $325 for Gold Patrons.  Tables for 10 are also available. A portion of the ticket cost is tax deductible.  For tickets or further details, please contact Amy Caldwell at (800) VSO-9293, ext. 16, or at, or visit
SYMPHONY GALA - WEDNESDAY, December 31, 7:30 pm, Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center, So. Burlington, VT

TICKETS: or 802-86 FLYNN

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is the only professional statewide orchestra that provides live musical experiences for listeners in Vermont.  It is a state-supported non-profit institution founded in 1935 and exists for the purpose of fostering and encouraging the appreciation of music in all its various forms, with emphasis on orchestral, choral and chamber music.

If you would like more information or would like to schedule an interview, please contact Amy Caldwell  at (802) 864-5741 ext. 16 or
                                                                                    # # #

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Will Shumlin actually fire Jonathan Gruber

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom

                                                                   Darcie Johnston
November 22, 2014                                                                           802-236-4807
Governor Shumlin, It’s Time to Actually Terminate Jonathan Gruber’s Vermont Contract
Montpelier, VT – On November 12th, Vermonters  for Health Care Freedom was the first to call for the Governor to terminate Jonathan Gruber.  Gruber is the MIT professor who was the architect of ObamaCare, and the self-admitted purveyor of deceptions and lies which he perpetrated in order to get the law passed.  He is also the consultant hired by the Shumlin Administration to advise the Vermont legislature on how to pay for single payer come January 15, 2015.
After more than a week’s delay and more calls for the Governor to terminate Mr. Gruber,  Lawrence Miller,  Shumlin’s health care reform chief, made a hasty announcement at a legislative briefing that was both confusing and deceptive.   Miller announced that to help assuage some of the criticism of Gruber, Vermont would withhold the rest of Gruber’s payment while still relying on him to complete the financing work,  At that time, VHCF President Darcie Johnston asked members of the Vermont Press Corps for a copy of Mr. Gruber’s amended agreement with Vermont stating that he would not be paid for any further work.
Today we learned that despite many requests from national and Vermont media,  the Shumlin administration has yet to produce a new or amended agreement with Jonathan Gruber.
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom  again  calls upon Governor Shumlin to fully terminate Mr. Gruber’s contract immediately, as the State of North Carolina did this week.   The administration is called upon to make any and all communications and single payer work product  available to  Vermont legislators, Vermont media, any Vermonter who makes a public records request,  and the Congressional Oversight Committee that has subpoenaed Mr. Gruber to appear before them on December 9th.
Further we call upon Governor Shumlin terminate Lawrence Miller for his claims that Jonathan Gruber would no longer be doing work for Vermont, and Robin Lunge for failing to manage the terms of the Gruber contract requiring detailed proofs of work in the invoices he submitted for payment.  
As we all know,  54% of Vermonters recently voted against reelecting Governor Shumlin.   Clearly Vermonters have lost confidence in him.   Most, if not all of the negative vote was a referendum on Shumlin’s single payer scheme. 
“By firing Jonathan Gruber, Governor Shumlin had an opportunity to take the first step in restoring Vermonters’ confidence in him and his administration.   He failed to do so. VHCF believes he was intentionally trying to deceive Vermonters and the Vermont Legislature withWednesday’s announcement that to date has not produced a revised agreement signed by both parties and publically disclosed,” added Darcie Johnston.  
“Governor Shumlin, Vermonters are watching you and we don’t believe you’ve changed.  If you truly want to lead this state to better days and want the confidence of Vermonters that you are worthy to be our Governor, you must terminate Jonathan Gruber, Lawrence Miller and Robin Lunge immediately,” concluded Darcie Johnston.
As we said last week, Governor Shumlin can begin the process now of introducing the transparency he always talks about, by getting rid of Jonathan Gruber, Lawrence Miller and Robin Lunge and fully disclosing all documents related to his much-awaited financing plan for single payer/government run health care.
A Message from Vermonters for Health Care Freedom (VHCF)
There is no doubt that the well-funded single payer groups and Governor Shumlin would like to see VHCF go away.  But we cannot -  and, with your help, we will not.
VHCF is the sole voice of public dissention -  in a sea of single payer government-run health care advocates.  We represent  folks like you, who have not “drunk the Kool-Aid”.   No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.  There are many well-funded groups on the other side, spending a lot of money to bring about single payer.  But VHCF receives no funding from the big-money groups.   We are a grass-roots organization that relies completely on supporter donations to remain in business. 
We are grateful for the support we have received, but without continuing support from grassroots Vermonters, we cannot continue to be effective at preventing Governor Shumlin and his like-minded friends from implementing a single payer health plan by 2017.
Please take a moment now to give generously,  by clicking the link below, or sending a contribution to:   Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, PO Box 1515, Montpelier, VT 05601. 
Thank you.
Darcie L. Johnston
Founder, VHCF

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Vermont Duel Enrollment Voucher Site Request Application

Vermont State Colleges

Welcome to the Vermont Dual Enrollment Student Voucher Request Application

This application is used to request the use of a Dual Enrollment Voucher.

**Voucher Requests for Spring 2015 will be available on November 1**

Please choose from one of the two options listed below:
  • I am planning to take a course at one of the following schools:
    Bennington CollegeBurlington CollegeCastleton State CollegeChamplain CollegeCollege of St. JosephCommunity College of VermontGoddard CollegeGreen Mountain CollegeJohnson State CollegeLandmark CollegeLyndon State CollegeMarlboro CollegeNew England Culinary InstituteNorwich UniversitySaint Michael's CollegeSIT Graduate InstituteSouthern Vermont CollegeSterling CollegeVermont Technical College
    Select Vermont Colleges Voucher Request
  • I am planning to take a course at the University of Vermont, select UVM Voucher Request.
If you have any questions please contact Elaine Sopchak at

Link to crowd funding site for fundraising

I have done some work on the indiegogo site and will be finishing up the facebook page.

If you would please post this link on your social media sites and get as many shares as possible.

It ends on January 9. So I would suggest sharing it every week until then.

Here is the link to the French Immersion Facebook page:

It will also where I will be posting photos when we are in France.

Janet Pipkin
Dean of Students
Yearbook Advisor

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom
Health Care Reform Newsletter #41
Vermonters  for Health  Care Freedom  continues our newsletter series on Vermont’s health care reform efforts.  We dig deep through national and local media coverage, to bring honest reporting to our client businesses and newsletter recipients regarding Vermont’s push for a “single payer” health care system, and the problems inherent in such a system.  We also report on the federal ObamaCare law and Vermont’s health benefit exchange.  No other Vermont organization is dedicated solely to this work.
Grubergate:  Shocking Revelations From VT. Single Payer Financing Guru
Jonathan Gruber, the Shumlin administration’s consultant hired  to deliver a Vermont single payer financing plan in January 2015, has said this about American voters:
In this issue:
·         Jonathan Gruber:  Now Ready to Mislead the Vermont Legislature
·         Why Does it Matter To Vermont?
·         Gruber Fallout Is National
·         The Gruber Report Will Not Meet the “Mullin Triggers”
Quotes of the Week: 
I was dumbstruck when I heard the comments that are surfacing from an economist named Jonathan Gruber, who was paid $400,000 to help shape the President’s health plan.  First, he allowed as how the plan passed only because of a “lack of transparency” and – this is a direct quote – “the stupidity of the American people”.
Bob Schieffer, CBS News
“The problem is not that he said it. The problem is that he thinks it.  I’m serious. The core problem under this damn law is that it was put together by a bunch of elitists who don’t really fundamentally understand the American people”.
Howard Dean, Former VT. Governor
“I would hope we would never spend one Vermont taxpayer dollar on someone that believes that we should mislead the voter.  His belief that the ends justify the means is enough for me if I were governor to terminate his contract immediately. Transparency and open government are key to a well functioning democracy.”
Senator Kevin Millin,  R-Rutland
Jonathan Gruber:  Now Ready to Mislead  the Vermont Legislature
Americans just found out in recent weeks  that they were deliberately deceived and misled by  MIT economics professor  Jonathan Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare.  Videos of his speeches reveal  a man with an elitist disdain for American voters, whom he calls “stupid”.   Gruber played a central role in the preparation of analyses and the selling of ObamaCare.  He now proudly admits that he was party to a series of deceptions and lies necessary to hoodwink both Washington lawmakers and the Congressional Budget Office into passing ObacaCare under false pretenses.  (see video at end of newsletter).
The same fate may be in store for Vermonters.  Turns out that Jonathan Griber is the man Governor Shumlin contracted with to the tune of $450,000 to advise the Vermont legislature on how to finance Shumlin’s single-payer health care plan.  Take a look at Gruber’s philosophy as seen in videotaped speeches on ObamaCare:
·         “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.  And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.  Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not”. 
·         “Politically you just literally cannot do….transparent financing, transparent spending.  I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate (for people to have insurance) as taxes.  If the CBO scores the bill as taxes, the bill dies.  So it was written to do that”.
·         “It turns out politically it's really hard to get rid of (the exemption of health care from being taxed)," Gruber said. "And the only way we could get rid of it was first by mislabeling it, calling it a tax on insurance plans rather than a tax on people when we all know it’s a tax on people who hold those policies”.
·         “It’s very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter”.
·         “We experimented with choice in public insurance – Medicare Part D.  Typical senior has 50 PDPs (prescription drug plans to choose from).  Seniors do a terrible job at choosing”.
·         Gruber ‘s response in the Vermont State House to a Vermonter concerned about the ramifications of single payer:  “Was this written by my adolescent children by any chance?”.
Overall,  Jonathan Gruber’s remarkable arrogance and disdain for the intellect of American voters and Vermont’s citizens is breathtaking.  His remarks are delivered in a gloating fashion, with much laughter, as he admits his deception of the Congressional  Budget Office and Washington lawmakers. 
In Vermont, calls to fire Gruber are coming in from every direction, including several Vermont Republican senators and representatives.   However, the Shumlin administration thinks it has somehow solved Gruber’s credibility problem by capping his contract payments.  Instead of $450,000, Gruber was asked to complete the work for only the $160,000 already paid.  The state will continue to pay Gruber’s assistants at the rate of $100/hr.  Lawrence Miller, Shumlin’s single payer point person, estimates that Gruber will probably be paid at least $280,000.  Not much of a penalty there.
Miller explains that Gruber “pushed back some” , but that the state was looking to address questions about Gruber’s credibility.  “Doing the work without compensation helps to address that, helps to mitigate that” (the credibility gap), says Miller.  No, Mr. Miller, it doesn’t.   Making money has nothing to do with it;  Gruber has made multiple millions already.  That’s not what motivates him; his arrogance does.  
Why Does It Matter to Vermonters? 
Even if Gruber worked for free, he can’t change who he is and how he operates.  By his own admission, Gruber purposely distorted  information about ObamaCare to make it palatable to the Congressional Budget Office.  Additionally, he  purposely misabeled another important tax provision necessary to fund ObamaCare. 
This is the very same work Gruber is being asked to do for the Shumlin administration and the Vermont legislature.  The clear language of his contract refutes the recent backtracking by both Governor Shumlin and pro-single payer legislator Sen. Claire Ayer that  “Hey, Gruber’s  only doing numbers; he’s not going to advise us on policy”.      
Gruber’s Vermont contract clearly states, “The Contractor shall assist the administration and other consultants in the development of the final policy recommendations that form the basis of a comprehensive report to the state legislature ”.  
Even the most ardent  legislative single payer  advocate will have a tough time explaining to his or her constituency why  a guy who would lie and mislead the federal Congressional Budget Office will now tell the truth to the Vermont legislature,  and why they should accept any of his recommendations.  Reread his philosophy above. 
Gruber Fallout is National
Others for whom Gruber has done similar work are now questioning their decisions.  The November 19, 2014 Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland Representative Andy Harris, a Johns Hopkins-trained physician, is a member of the House subcommittee with oversight of health spending.  Harris is questioning a $3.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant awarded to Gruber.  Gruber has already received $1.5m to study how seniors choose Medicare Part D plans (“Seniors do a terrible job of choosing”).   Harris said Gruber is on track to receive more than $2m.  (Apparently Vermont’s pay freeze won’t hurt Mr. Gruber financially, although he did “push back” on it).
In a letter to the NIH, Dr. Harris wrote, “Recent developments related to Dr. Gruber raise questions about his objectivity and judgment, and thus the utility of his research.  If NIH were to continue funding Dr. Gruber’s grant, would you recommend that Congress and others utilize Dr. Gruber’s study given his deporable views on the intelligence of Americans?  If you do recommend using it, how would you justify that decision,, especially to seniors why rely on Medicare Part D?”.   
Governor Shumlin and Vermont legislators will have to answer similar questions come January 2015.
The Wall Street Journal reports on November 20, 2014 that in Michigan, Republican state senator  Tom McMillin sent a letter on November 19th to the State Department of Community health , seeking information on Mr. Gruber’s work, including how he was selected and paid.  Michigan opted to go with the federal exchange rather than building a state-run exchange.  (Mr. Gruber apparently works both sides of the street.)  “He seems to have a proclivity for deception or fraud, so I’d like to dig into this”, said Mr. McMillin.
Perhaps the Vermont legislature should ask Reps. Harris and McMillin to visit in January and find out what they learned.  Athough Gruber’s active participation in the obfuscation of facts that led to the passage of ObamaCare is not enough to dampen the ardor of Governor Shumlin and the Vermont legislature,  this issue will not go away any time soon.  The fallout will continue, more of Gruber’s contracts will be cancelled and more revelations will come to light.
Gruber’s Vermont Report Will Not Meet the “Mullin Triggers”
Remember the “Mullin Triggers” written into Act 48 to give Vermonters some comfort that a single payer system would not harm them?  Many Vermonters were reassured that they were in safe hands beause no single payer system could be implemented without meeting these triggers.  Not anymore.  The triggers  are not included in the scope of work outlined in Jonathan Gruber’s contract. 
Mullin Triggers
·         All Vermonters must have insurance coverage that pays at least 80 percent of their medical costs.
·         Green Mountain Care, the single payer structure, will not have a “negative” aggregate impact on Vermont’s economy (Robin Lunge now says there will be “winners and losers”).
·         The financing for Green Mountain is sustainable.
·         Administrative costs will be reduced.
·         Cost containment will result in a reduction in the rate of growth of per-capita health care spending.
·         Health care professionals will be reimbursed at levels sufficient to allow Vermont to recruit and retain high-quality health care professionals.
Gruber Contract :  “The Contractor and his subcontractor shall assist the state in analyzing the triggers set forth in Act 48 for future consideration by the Green Mountain Care Board:
·         When implemented, Green Mountain Care will not have a negative aggregate impact on Vermont’s economy.
·         The financing for Green Mountain Care is sustainable.
That’s it.  What happened to the evaluation of the “80% medical costs” level plan?  Or any medical plan?  Any single payer analysis of the overall cost and whether it will be affordable and not have a negative impact on the economy,  must, by definition,  include an analysis of the underlying medical plan that will be the basis of single payer.  
What happened to Act 48’s assurances about reduced admin costs?  About cost containment resulting in reduced health care spending?  And perhaps most importantly, about single payer’s ability to attract and retain high quality providers so our health care won’t suffer?  Any response,  Mr. Gruber?   Governor Shumlin?  Senator Ayer?  Anyone?