Persevere on health care

January 23, 2015

Rutland Herald: It’s easy to condemn the Jan. 8 sit-in at the State House by Vermont Workers Center members and other single-payer health care supporters.

Practically speaking, the demonstration was counter-productive because it left Vermonters talking about tactics (disruption) rather than substance (health care.) Other longtime, knowledgeable and passionate backers of universal, state-sponsored care felt obliged to dissociate themselves from the demonstrators, although they share their objectives, and a wedge was driven between Progressives and Democrats, who should be natural allies.

We also feel sympathetic toward the demonstrators and share their goal; but we must ask how we would react if, for instance, a single-payer funding plan had been announced and a group who opposed it disrupted the governor’s inauguration attempting to block it. Demonstrations, marches and sit-ins are important for calling attention to problems and manifesting public opinion. But then legislative and legal processes must be allowed to follow their prescribed course.

But with the demonstrators duly reprimanded, health care advocates must rejoin forces and acknowledge that their point is not only legitimate but essential and urgent. Act 48 is state law. How can the governor, who promised to see it enacted, suddenly decide that “now is not the right time”? There is indeed a need for full legislative hearings on the subject. Thousands of Vermonters lack adequate care (or indeed any care) because they have lost jobs, cannot afford the deductibles and copays of the Affordable Care Act or for other varied and daunting reasons. Health care is a public good which the state in fact has recognized by law. The state is obligated to follow through with a workable plan. We cannot allow the ill-considered actions of a few to become an excuse for postponing promised and desperately needed social progress.

JUDY and

MICHAEL OLINICK

Middlebury