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Earlier last month, after mentioning certain health care related matters and needs to my counseling therapist, they asked me about my going to a primary care physician in order to address these health issues of mine. When I informed them that I have not had a primary care doctor for several years, as well as some of the various reasons why not, they asked me what sort of doctor I would be comfortable with.

I had informed them that although I had a naturopathic physician as my primary care doctor several years ago, it has been quite a number of years since I had last gone to them, and my therapist then informed me that the doctor in question has since retired.

For those not already in the know, Vermont happens to permit Naturopathic Physicians (NPs) to serve as primary care doctors, as well as to utilize Medicaid for payment of services for those patients who are eligible for the government-funded program. Unfortunately, NPs are not able to bill Medicare.

Last autumn, I had an urgent medical issue that brought me up to the local hospital emergency room, was examined and evaluated, but not admitted overnight. Instead, I was given a referral to an internist, with whom an appointment was eventually scheduled a couple of months later and, upon arrival at the doctor’s office, I had been given a comprehensive exam.

Unfortunately, the doctor has since retired as well; otherwise, I might have gone back to them when recently experiencing severe problems with ongoing chronic pain in my back (as well as elsewhere in my body), including temporary immobilization related to persistent (read: chronic) lower back problems on two separate occasions last month.

In these particular instances, regarding the chronic back problems, going to the hospital emergency room would not be appropriate, nor necessarily helpful, even when experiencing severe and temporarily immobilizing episodes as was recently the case.

In directly answering my therapist’s question, I mentioned that my preference would be a naturopathic physician who is much like an old-fashioned country or small town general practitioner, a doctor very much along the lines of Patch Adams (clown nose and all).

Come to find out, finding a practicing primary health care physician in Vermont that will accept both new patients, as well as limited health insurance, is proving to be quite difficult.

It goes without saying, however, that I am by no means alone in dealing with these types of circumstances as well as predicaments either.

Meanwhile, vast sums of public and private funds are going toward an extremely costly, overburdened and failing healthcare system, yet many people are still unable to receive adequate care and treatment that they are sorely in need of in a timely enough manner.

What is one to do?

The solution is quite obvious or else should be.

What is required is a publicly financed universal health care system for all; not merely what might be potentially provided for state legislators, as well as the relatively privileged or select few either.

Unfortunately, there are bills that have been introduced in both the Vermont House of Representatives (H. 156) and the state Senate (S. 74) that would establish universal health care for all Vermont (beginning with primary health care, in its first year after passage) that are currently languishing on the walls of the committees these were assigned.

It is disheartening that legislative leadership as well as the committee chairs and other legislators have apparently decided these bills to be nonstarters and not worth taking up in a meaningful and serious manner. Meanwhile, it appears that state legislators will be receiving what every Vermonter should be able to have access to and the rest of us are going to continue to be left out in the cold.

As usual (just like with addressing homelessness and related matters in a real and meaningful manner), this is not about having sufficient financial resources available. Rather it is about exercising the political will as well as making these matters a high enough priority in order to get it done.

What has been standing in the way, however, are those special interests that continue to gain by keeping the status quo in place and who believe that they stand to lose if every Vermonter has equal footing by having access to universal health care for all.

The questions posed concerning these and related matters ought not be about how to do so — those have carefully and thoughtfully been considered as well as answered by the universal health care bills sitting on committee walls in the state Legislature. Rather, the more relevant question to be asked ought to be, why not?

Morgan W. Brown writes from Montpelier. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.