Vermont is like the “Rudy” of bad healthcare ideas. Barely standing after the state’s disastrous failed single-payer experiment, the coach is yelling: “Ruttiger! Ruttiger! Get out!”
But no. “I can do it, coach!”, insist the famously liberal Green Mountain State’s politicians. So now Vermont is ready to get pummeled all over again by a linebacker named “Reality.”
Earlier this month, in the midst of an opioid epidemic ravaging the state, Vermont’s legislature voted to legalize buying drugs from Canada, where government-set price controls keep prices artificially low.
Unfortunately, there’s no sacking the quarterback in the last game of senior year for Vermont, unless you count the 15 minutes that people took loony Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign seriously. Not only is Vermont’s new bill illegal under federal law, but if it could be implemented, it would end just as badly as Vermont’s single-payer fiasco.
“The United States has the safest regulatory system in the world. The last thing we need is open borders for unsafe drugs in search of savings that cannot be safely achieved,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar said in response to the Vermont bill. Azar happens to be the official who would need to approve a request by Vermont to open the floodgates to cheap Canadian drugs under federal law. Looks like that’s not going to happen.
However, the more serious flaw is the dramatic increase in the amount of drugs coming across the border in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Don’t be fooled by how (somewhat annoyingly) polite they are: Canada has seriously increased its illegal drug trade in the last few years. It’s starting to rival hockey as an export.
Law enforcement officials have been expressing alarm about a series of Canada-related drug busts that betray a breathtaking scale of production — like when cops stopped three Canadian men in Provo, Utah with 200 pounds of meth in the trunk of their car (“oh, what’s that a-boot?” one of the men reportedly told police, trying to play dumb). Or a bust of a Calgary smuggling ring that had been producing 18,000 pills an hour.
A frequent concern expressed by senior law enforcement officials is that legalizing the drug trade between the U.S. and Canada will utterly overwhelm enforcement efforts that are already pushed to the limit.
“Importation proposals would force law enforcement agencies to make tough prioritization decisions that leave the safety of the U.S. prescription drug supply vulnerable to criminals seeking to harm patients,” Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI, said recently, for example.
According to data from the CDC, overdose deaths increased 32.9 percent in Vermont between 2015-2016, the last year the data was available — one of the worst accelerations in the country.
Does that sound like a good time to legalize buying foreign drugs? Obviously not, but it wouldn’t be the first time Vermont ignored reason to pursue its left-wing dreams.
The state’s failed attempt at single-payer healthcare is Vermont’s most enterprising liberal flop, and one worth considering as the state attempts to forge ahead, once again, as America’s leader in bad healthcare ideas.
In 2010, Democrat Peter Shumlin campaigned for governor on enacting single-payer and won, surprising even the state’s liberal activists. Shumlin and Sanders partnered on a political movement to support the idea, and the legislature in 2011 passed a preliminary plan.
The “preliminary” part was mostly about how to pay for it. For the next three years, Shumlin and friends convened a mini-socialist Manhattan project, studying the issue from every possible angle.
Ultimately, Shumlin wasn’t prepared to destroy Vermont’s economy with the devastating tax increases that would have been required, and he repudiated his own proposal. “The lesson is, I was wrong,” Shumlin later said, reflecting on what “turned out to be my biggest downfall.”
But Vermont liberals never give up. Shumlin’s takeaway? Single-payer for the whole country!
“I can do it, coach!”