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Vermont’s health care system is a ‘village on fire’ and the villagers don’t even get a say on the matter.

Media recently reported that “Two health provider groups brought alarming anecdotes and statistics to the House Committee on Health Care.” The testimony was sufficiently alarming that one legislator compared Vermont’s health care system to a village on fire. Note that the testimony came from: Devon Green of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS), and Jessa Barnard, executive director of the Vermont Medical Society (VMS), which represents 2,600 physicians and physician assistants. Rest assured that the same privilege has been accorded to insurers like Blue Cross and MVP, as well as the University of Vermont Health Network.

What’s missing here? The voices of the villagers, those ordinary people caught in the fire. The many thousands in medical debt, the many more thousands unable to afford the deductibles and co-pays imposed by the insurance for which they have already paid ever increasing premiums. They don’t have formal organizations that decision makers invite to chat about the problem. They don’t sponsor breakfasts for the legislators. They don’t have lobbyists at the ready to push policies that benefit them. Which means the interests of the villagers are never taken into account the way that the interests of the VAHHS and VMS are taken into account. Without those voices, attempts to fight the fire may well end up drowning even more villagers. I guess villagers need to organize their own nonprofit, something like the Vermont Medical Debtor Society, or the Vermont Association of Helpless Healthcare Victims.

Lee Russ