Peter Shumlin, fresh from being able to ignore the $1.6 billion price tag on his single-payer plan until he had to finally offer up a way to pay for it last September (Hey, look at that – a payroll tax!), now is holding the feet of the contractor he hired to implement the health care exchange to a fire. Of some warm and burning kind. Because this time, he really means what he says about the whole thing working as he’d hoped. Or else. Even if the contractor’s been awarded tens of millions
already, including an amended contract Peter signed in September that brings the total cost for Vermont’s health care exchange close to the total cost for the federal exchange. Even if the contractor missed more than half of the project’s milestones.
That’s smart business-learning right there. The only place where you find savvier pols, ones who are fantastically adept at spending money that someone else has to give them at the point of a gun, is Washington, DC. Aim high, Peter.
“We have more work to do, and we are doing it,” Shumlin said. “I continue to be absolutely confident Vermont Health Connect will work effectively for Vermonters.”
Why wasn’t the work done prior to now? Why isn’t the contractors’ feet all nice and pre-crispy due to the valiant firework done by the Shumlin administration before the federal compliance deadline hove into view? Too busy? Not enough time to address the signature legislative event with only 24 hours in a day and millions of federal dollars in play?
There’s a reason Peter gets paid by tax dollars these days. He’d be laughed right out of a job if he missed his due date and went that far over budget. But don’t worry, uninsured Vermonters! Peter’s on top of it:
He added later, “We have plenty of time.”
Sure, what’s the rush? You just said we have 100,000 Vermonters without health care. I sure that hope none of them are in a rush to get sick or anything. Gosh, the only way a poor fella could pay his medical bills might be to sell his land to a super-helpy neighbor who just wants to help. He swears he’s there to help. He’s from the government, y’see.
But, instead of addressing the critical failure of his administration to oversee a contract he himself signed, he spends time promising something he’s basically just admitted he can’t deliver:
“We aren’t going to let 100,000 Vermonters be without coverage,” Shumlin said.
Well, it was originally 47,000 Vermonters, Peter. Where’d Peter find 53,000 Vermonters? Hiding under Cantilever Rock?
Reporters pressed Shumlin about contingency plans, but he and Mark Larson, the commissioner overseeing the launch of Vermont Health Connect, said it was too soon to talk about backup plans.
“While we want to look at other options, this is the time to be doing the work to get the website to where it needs to be,” Larson said.
I guess the last two years was not the time to be doing the work to get the website where it needs to be, then. Let me take a guess about the backup plan: It involves more taxpayer money. Just a guess.
Shumlin said he wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t considering all possibilities.
Or he wouldn’t be doing his job at all if he couldn’t manage the biggest piece of legislation, and the largest expansion of state power in the history of Vermont. That might also be failing to do one’s job, especially after a governor spent years campaigning on the issue, and chastising those who criticized his efforts.
“Governors have to make sure that things work,” he said.
Well, good governors do, yes. Agreed.
Shumlin said he has spoken frequently with George Schindler, president of U.S. and Canada operations at CGI Group Inc.
“They have made changes in the team. I am going to hold their feet to the fire,” he said. “We expect to get what we paid for, and we will.”
Vermonters expect to get what they paid for, too – they expect their governor to be competent. The only question remains: Will Vermonters hold Peter’s tootsies to the fire, too? Or will we be forced to eat a burger with everything on it?