Moving on with healthcare after Statehouse protests

January 11, 2015

 WPTV News Channel 5: 

MONTPELIER, Vt. —They sang, they screamed, and they sat in silence on the floor of the statehouse for hours. In all, 29 people were forced out by police Thursday night.

One day later, the focus is on what kind of impact, if any, the demonstration will have on any revival of Gov. Peter Shumlin's single-payer health care plan.

“This is literally a life and death issue,” said James Haslam, head of the Vermont Workers’ Union, as he stood by Thursday’s Statehouse protests where dozens sat-in on the House floor for hours, urging lawmakers to revive single-payer health care.

“We're going to keep organizing. We'll hope that the legislature follows through and has a public hearing that people can participate in,” said Haslam.

Many of the demonstrators were arrested after repeated warnings by police that the Statehouse was closed.

Their outrage comes after Gov. Peter Shumlin withdrew support for single-payer health care in December.

“Up until a couple of days ago, he said it was something he thought we could do because the money was there,” said Haslam.

While single-payer may be dead for now, the conversation over Act 48, which brought health care reform in Vermont to the forefront hasn't stalled.

Friday, the House Health Care Committee got an overview of the law and what parts are still in play.

“They come down to something as direct as fair, adequate access to health care for all Vermonters,” said Rep. William Lippert (D), chair of the committee.

Though Shumlin didn't directly address health care in his inaugural speech, Lippert believes it will be a part of the governor's budget address next week.

“I expect the governor and the administration will put forward significant proposals that will continue to move Vermont forward to a world of health care where all Vermonters can get access to affordable health care,” said Lippert.

The Vermont Workers’ Center says they'll be there every step of the way.

“Certainly, we'll be working to make sure that we are not making the issue anything but the issue at hand, which is how do we provide universal health care to people,” said Haslam.

Shumlin is set to give his budget address Jan. 15 at the Statehouse.

The 29 protesters who were arrested are due in court Feb. 26.

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