Clavelle Criticizes Douglas’ Health Care Policy

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Clavelle accused Republican Governor Jim Douglas on Wednesday of failing to show leadership on health care issues. But the Burlington mayor says he’ll wait until later in the campaign to offer details of his own health care plan.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) At a news conference, Peter Clavelle repeatedly linked Governor Douglas to the policies of President Bush. The Burlington mayor calls Douglas, who chairs the Bush re-election committee in Vermont, the cheerleader in chief for the president.

Clavelle says the Bush administration’s Medicare drug bill will cut drug benefits for 11,000 Vermonters. He says that Douglas supported the bill, but now his administration has warned that the legislation could cost the state several million dollars a year by reducing federal matching funds for Vermont’s own prescription drug program.

(Clavelle) “There is no record, there is no plan for the future. His plan for the future is that the market forces will address this crisis, the same market forces that brought us this mess – the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry. That is not the answer. Tinkering is not the answer. We need bold fundamental changes in the way we provide health care for Vermonters.”

(Dillon) Clavelle also blamed Douglas for failing to address a growing deficit in the state’s health access trust fund. The fund pays for children’s health care, drug benefits and other programs for the uninsured. It’s expected to be $53 million in the red by the end of the next fiscal year.

But the Democratic candidate says he hasn’t yet come up with his own solution to stem the deficit.

(Clavelle) “This is a tough question, and I am not suggesting with you today that I have a plan before me that will erase a projected 53 million dollar deficit. But if I had been in the governor’s office, I would have spoke up against federal policies that are creating the deficit.”

(Dillon) Clavelle says he’ll offer a comprehensive proposal for health care reform before Election Day. He wants to make it easier for Vermonters to buy cheaper medicines in Canada. He says he’d save money by reducing administrative costs. And he supports a bill advanced by statehouse Democrats that had aimed to make health care more affordable for small businesses.

Neale Lunderville, Douglas’s campaign chairman, says Clavelle has offered plenty of criticism, but few details.

(Lunderville) “There’s lots of rhetoric, and very little plan. The governor has a plan. The governor has a plan that will bring down the cost of prescription drugs, that will bring down the cost of health insurance, that will work to assure that quality health care is available to all Vermonters. We’d like to have a debate on the plans.”

(Dillon) Clavelle says he’d love to debate Douglas on health care, but that the governor has so far avoided debates. He says that this time two years go, Douglas had engaged in about 20 debates or campaign forums. In this election cycle, the first gubernatorial debate is scheduled for mid-September.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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