Vermont Gets a Lesson in States’ Rights

‎You might be surprised: This post is *not* about the failure of ObamaCare in Vermont (though that’s true and worth discussing). The New York Times article is, but this post makes a different point. 

Let’s get the background out of the way first. 

The online insurance marketplace that Vermont built to enroll people in private coverage under the law had extensive technical failures. The problems soured public and legislative enthusiasm for sweeping health care changes just as Gov. Peter Shumlin needed to build support for his complex single-payer plan. Finally, Mr. Shumlin, a Democrat, shelved the plan in December, citing the high cost to taxpayers. He called the decision “the greatest disappointment of my political life.”

…Vermont stands as a cautionary tale. Despite an eventual cost of up to $200 million in federal funds, its online marketplace, or exchange, is still not fully functional, while disgust with the system is running deep among residents and lawmakers alike….

“It’s just been a spectacular crash, really,” said State Representative Chris Pearson, a member of Vermont’s Progressive Party. “We’ve gone from this vision of being the first state to achieve universal health care, to limping along and struggling to comply with the Affordable Care Act.”

Fine, nothing unexpected here, just the misery of a big, not-well-thought-out, overweening Federal program. But what’s my real point?


The bitterness stems partly from the fact that Vermont had some of the biggest elements of the Affordable Care Act in place long before it took effect. Health insurance companies here already could not refuse to cover people, or charge them more, if they had pre-existing medical conditions. The state also already had more generous Medicaid eligibility rules than most, and programs that helped lower-income people pay for private insurance, which made it less expensive for many than the new exchange plans.‎

To many Vermonters, the new federal law complicated a state system that had already provided good coverage and muddied the route to an even better model.‎

Recall that the federal government doesn’t have the right to do anything that’s not delegated to it by the states, and that each state should be able to manage itself in the way that best suits its needs and people.

Note also that left-wingers tend to pooh-pooh this idea. They tend not to care about Constitutionalists’ complaints, because the left-wingers are getting what they want from the federal government and dragging the red states with them, whether it’s good for the red states or not. THEY know what’s best, so THEY choose what the red states will do. 

Finally, note that Vermont has no problem with the federal government telling the states what to do. In 2012, President Obama took Vermont with 67% of the vote. 

Perhaps, though, blue-staters might see in this situation the problem I’ve been harping on for so long. 

“This law, by preserving the private insurance system and treating health care as a commodity, made us do things that Vermont otherwise wouldn’t have done,” said James Haslam, the executive director of the Vermont Workers Center, a grass-roots group that has made universal, government-financed health care its central cause.

Indeed. Here is a clear-cut case of the federal government overstepping its bounds, and a deep-blue state suffering the consequences because the law’s strictures weren’t appropriate for that state. 

Do I expect blue-staters to see, though? No, of course not. The Times doesn’t note the problem in its article. I expect most of my liberal readers are thinking, “Well, this wouldn’t have happened if we had gone straight to single-payer.” Go ahead, tell me, make a comment — how many of you thought that?‎

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