Dozens call for universal health care

May 26, 2017

Bennington Banner

By Edward Damon edamon@benningtonbanner.com

BENNINGTON — Dozens of supporters of universal health care turned out to the River Street fire facility on Friday night, calling for the implementation of Vermont's "Healthcare for All" law.

High-quality, consistent care, would make for a more efficient healthcare system, according to Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. "The system is far less expensive when we treat people early, treat people well, and take care of them so chronic illnesses don't get to extreme levels," he said.

Both things are threatened to be stripped away under proposed health care act. The act proposed in January was estimated to cost some $200 million to Vermonters in Medicaid support. A Republican-led plan aims to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act signed into law seven years ago by then-President Barack Obama. The Republican plan would remove many parts of the ACA. An estimated 23 million people would lose health coverage.
“We have some real challenges ahead if this Draconian policy gets through congress," Zuckerman said at the Banner office prior to the rally . While he's optimistic cuts won't happen, he continued: "It's a sad day when we're thankful to hold onto what we've got, opposed to continuing to move forward on real progress to change the system." "We all pay for healthcare one way or another — whether through taxes, trips to emergency rooms ... so how do we do it most effectively and efficiently," he said. "We should start with universal primary care.”

The rally comes on the anniversary of a Vermont law designed to provide healthcare for all. Former Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the single- payer health law on May 26, 2011. That law states a single payer system must be in place this year. That law also established an Advisory Committee for the Green Mountain Care Board.

Organizers on Friday passed out band-aids to attendees. It was meant to show that people need more than just band aids to be healthy.
A universal single payer health care system would be supported by most physicians, said Marvin Malek, medical director of the Hospitalist Medicine program at Springfield Hospital. A cut of 25 percent of Medicaid would lead to "massive crises," said Malek, a member of the GMCB Advisory Committee and with Physicians for a National Health Program. The billions of dollars in purported savings to the federal government would be born by the states.
"Either state governments are going to greatly raise taxes to expand their Medicaid programs, or the hospitals are going to end up with huge amounts of unpaid bills," he said. "They'll cut services, they'll go bankrupt." And people will die, he said, because of lack of access to healthcare -- as many as 20,000 additional deaths each year.

The rally was organized by Rights and Democracy Vermont. Among the groups represented at the rally was Planned Parenthood of New England, the Progressive Party, and the Vermont Worker's Center.

“The healthcare system is in shambles," said Dick Dundas, medical director of the Bennington Free Clinic. "As it exists, it's sick. It's a uniquely American illness: It's costly, dysfunctional, administratively complex and chaotic.”

Vickie Lampron recounted talking about healthcare with a friend who lives in Holland. She learned that she paid far less for better healthcare coverage. Lampron, who works as a home health aid, also spoke of a young man whom is a client who would be affected by cuts to Medicaid. "To hear other countries can do this and take care of.... what the hell is wrong with us?"
More must be done about access to substance abuse treatment, said Ken Sigsbury, executive director for Turning Point Center of Bennington. There aren't enough treatment beds in Vermont, though legislators have listened to those needs.

Rory Price with the Bennington Oral Health Coalition said she's spoken with people who have pulled their own teeth with plyers because they don't have dental coverage. "This isn't the wild west," she said. "It's the U.S. in 2017. We all deserve better."