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Issa'll Good: VT's Interpretation of ACA Likely to Withstand House Committee's Attacks

The inevitable has come to pass. The chief dirt-digger of Congressional Republicans, Darrell Issa, has turned his prosecutorial spotlight on Vermont's health care reform process. VTDigger's Andrew Stein dutifully writes up this non-story:

Vermont... policy requires residents buying health insurance individually or through small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to purchase coverage on the state-run market. Friday, the House [Committee on Oversight and Government Reform] sent a letter to Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, indicating that such mandates are illegal.

The aforementioned committee has become a clownshow of baseless conspiracy theories under the leadership of Issa, the California Republican and former car-alarm huckster. This might be taken as strong evidence for the probity of Vermont's process since Issa has a lengthy record of seeking scandal where it does not exist. In his zealous pursuit of imaginary misdeeds he has embodied the most notable traits of two fictional French policemen: the humanity of Javert and the instincts of Clouseau.

But Vermont Republicans, shivering in the chill of their long political winter, can't help but be drawn to the warmth of his feckless grandstanding. Darcie Johnston, the grande dame of health care reform denialism and the "brains" behind Randy Brock's gubernatorial campaign, called for a purely voluntary health care exchange.

And Shawn Shouldice, Vermont director of the National Federation of Independent Business (and press liaison for Bruce Lisman's allegedly nonpartisan Campaign for Vermont), pounced on Issa's accusation like a starving hyena on a scrap of roadkill:

"The [Affordable Care Act] very clearly prohibits compulsory participation in the exchange," Shouldice said in a statement. "We've never understood how the Vermont health care exchange can compel small businesses and individuals to participate in the exchange, and we're encouraged that finally someone in Washington is asking the same question."

Unfortunately for Shouldice, the Johnston and Issa, the following paragraph is part of the ACA:

"Nothing in this title shall be construed to terminate, abridge or limit the operation of any requirement under state law with respect to any policy or plan that is offered outside of the Exchange to offer benefits."

That unambiguous statement ought to put this whole issue to rest, but given Issa's predilections I'm sure he'll keep ranting about. Vermont Republicans ought to be a little less desperate in their choice of allies. After all, they say they are trying to broaden their appeal. Jumping on one of Issa's bandwagons isn't going to help.

One prominent Republican who seems to be aware of this is Betsy Bishop, former Douglas Administration multitool and head of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She was actually quoted in the Issa committee's letter of inquiry...

But Bishop said she neither knew about her quote being used nor was it used in full context.

... Bishop says she doesn't attach much weight to the letter, and the chamber would work with - not against the Shumlin administration - to implement the exchange as it has been crafted into state law.

Smart lady. Since her first duty is to represent the interests of her organization, she's foresworn the short-term thrill of the cheap political attack in favor of burnishing her relationship with the state officials who hold the power to impact her constituents.  

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