Vermonters to Rally at Statehouse to Demand Universal Healthcare

Montpelier, VT–Vermonters from across the state will converge at the Statehouse January 5th to deliver thousands of petition signatures to lawmakers. The petition, to be delivered on the first day of the new session of the legislature, demands that Vermont adopt a healthcare system which meets human rights principles and leads the nation in the adoption of universal healthcare. This comes in anticipation of the release of the state mandated universal healthcare system options, designed by Dr. William Hsiao, following last session’s passage of the Universal Access To Healthcare Act.

"The time is now for Vermont to take the lead in creating an equitable healthcare system that recognizes healthcare as a public good," said Peg Franzen, president of the Vermont Workers’ Center which coordinates the Healthcare Is A Human Right campaign. "Every year in Vermont, our neighbors, friends, and families are suffering and dying because they do not receive the healthcare that they need. Every day we wait more uninsured and underinsured people are losing their homes because of their medical bills, closing their family farm or business from a medical crisis or chronic illness, or are crushed by debt after getting sick. We need to act now to put people over profits."

The rally this January 5th will be building on the momentum of last year’s Healthcare Is a Human Right rally on May 1st which attracted record numbers of Vermonters to the Statehouse to express their experiences with a broken healthcare system and support the creation of a healthcare system that meets human rights standards. In 2010, the Healthcare Is A Human Right campaign held People’s Forums all across the state where Vermonters engaged with over 130 legislators and legislative candidates to let the policy makers know that Vermonters’ voices should be heard over that of insurance and drug companies.

Not only is January 5th the first day of the legislative session, but it’s also the inauguration week for Governor-elect Peter Shumlin, who championed single payer healthcare throughout his campaign. “This rally is about building a new people’s movement in Vermont and across the nation, and demanding from our elected officials that they represent the needs of all working people,” said Franzen. “We are making sure that the people we elected to represent us know that we expect them to work with us to overcome obstacles and do what is desperately needed for the people of our state."

Vermont has enacted a series of incremental reforms to attempt to address the health care crisis. This has included included the Catamount Health program, a privately run and publicly subsidized program started in 2006. While around 12,500 people were enrolled in Catamount as of September 2010, an estimated 59,000 Vermonters are still without any health insurance (See: People’s Budget Report 12/10/10 ). Many thousands more are under-insured. During the last legislative session people from all across the state contacted their legislators as part of the Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign to voice their concern that the current crisis in access to healthcare needs bolder comprehensive change. The result was the passage of S. 88 (which became Act 128) the "Universal Access To Healthcare Act," which affirmed Vermont’s commitment to adopting a healthcare system which meets human rights principles of universality, equity, accountability, transparency and participation. S. 88 also called for the state to hire a consultant to design three healthcare plans for Vermont, which all meet human rights principles. The state hired Dr. Hsiao, a Harvard economics professor who also designed the Taiwanese single-payer healthcare system. The three plans Dr. Hsiao has been developing are expected to be presented to the people of the Vermont and the state legislature January 19th, 2011.

The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are expected to pour excessive amounts of money into the state in advertising and “astroturf” groups in an attempt to hold back the groundswell of support for real change in our healthcare system that Vermonters are demanding from their elected officials. “We know that we have a battle before us, but we also know that the people of Vermont have demonstrated time and time again that our system is broken and that we all have a human right to healthcare,” said Franzen. “While we might not have the billions of dollars that the insurance and drug companies have, when the people of Vermont come together they have more say than the corporations in the future of our state.”


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