Vermont’s First Steps Toward Single Payer

On May 26, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law H. 202, a bill that is intended to set the state on the road to a single-payer health care system. While the legislation puts off the creation of such a system for a number of years, this is an important initial victory for thousands of activists in the state who have been agitating for years for a truly universal system.

James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center and the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign, called the bill:

"a victory for our movement, for all Vermonters and for the country as a whole…Our success shows that when people come together, make their voices heard and demand their rights, we can overcome well-funded special interests and change what’s politically possible."

The bill establishes that “all Vermont residents shall be eligible for Green Mountain Care, a universal health care program that will provide health benefits through a single payment system.”

[…] Activism will continue to be important as the process moves forward in Vermont.

A majority of the state’s residents expect to get a single-payer system. This is because thousands of activists have spent the last several years holding rallies, forums, town hall meetings and debates, as well as sharing hours of health care horror stories in testimony to legislators. They have made an effective case for single payer, and now legislators have raised hopes further that we will win such a system with this latest legislation.

Grassroots activism also helped beat back efforts to include right-wing provisions in the bill, such as a last-minute add-on by state senators that would have excluded undocumented immigrants from coverage under the new system.

The backers of this addendum withdrew their proposal within days after diverse groups throughout the state peppered legislators with calls, e-mails and faxes. Particularly moving was the fact that a May 1 rally of 2,000 people organized by the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign was dominated by calls for the inclusion of undocumented workers in the new legislation.

The health care needs of Vermonters will be met only if activism continues. […] The challenge for activists in Vermont and across the country is to crank up the pressure until we win the kind of health care system we need and deserve.

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