Tara Meyer, Nurse Practitioner, Burlington

I was in my last semester of my Family Nurse Practitioner program at UVM. Vermont has a program called Ladies First, which basically covers some preventive care (like mammograms) for women without health insurance. When I was a new student I thought this was great– “Wow, in Vermont, all women theoretically have access to preventive services.” But one day at the clinic, a patient came in who had previously applied for Ladies First because she had no health insurance. She had been denied because she had a modest house and some family land (that had been passed through her family for generations) so she did not qualify for the program because she was technically over the income/asset limit (even though she did not make a lot of money by any measure). So she kept putting off going to her primary care provider. Consequently, she presented this day with a lump in her breast that had been there for a little while, which ended up being Stage IV breast cancer– basically a very bad diagnosis.

She was referred immediately to an oncologist and started chemotherapy and radiation. I don’t know what ever happened to her because she was not my patient, but my heart ached for her and her family, working so hard to pay their taxes and keep jobs, only to be denied very basic preventive services like mammograms.

It is the very epitome of what is wrong with our system: if you don’t make a dime or have anything, you qualify for health care. It creates almost a disincentive to try to make money because you only qualify for the “socialized” services if you don’t make anything. And in Vermont we have so many folks who work really hard and don’t make much, but somehow they make too much money to get any kind of free health care. And as nurse practitioner that to me is just wrong and we need to change it, make it so that everyone is covered, take out the middle-man (insurance companies) and people who profit off of sickness (again, insurance companies and drug companies). Only then can we do what is right for Vermonters, what is right for all people.