I want to highlight some examples of how easy it is to be marginalized from access to healthcare in the State of Vermont. As someone who has an auto-immune disease I can not risk losing my insurance. At present I am eligible for coverage under my partner’s employer, but without that option I would be paying almost $800 per month under the COBRA option. With no income and having to cover food and housing I would not be able to afford that insurance. And at present, if I dared to go without insurance for any period of time, I would not be able to find insurance in the future. [I would be refused for my pre-existing conditions.]

I have recently switched from my employer’s coverage to my partner’s healthcare. And while I find myself where so many courageous Vermonters just last year publicly testified in favor of same sex marriage. Tonight, I feel more vulnerable publicly proclaiming, and possibly letting a prospective employer know that I have Lupus and asthma than I do letting them know I happen to be a lesbian. Discrimination comes in all kinds of packages. We need to disengage health care from jobs.

I want to emphasize what we all know, the present insurance company based-system is seriously flawed, because the current system health insurance is inextricably linked to employment and the costs are driven by for-profit companies. These for-profit businesses make money on people’s misfortune of being ill. It is inequitable and elitist. It is not based on the values we hold dear in the State of Vermont. This country was founded on decent principles and we have worked to improve those greatly, especially in Vermont, where we do care about our neighbors and about our quality of life.  The time has come to make another serious improvement by making sure that ALL Vermonters are covered by a single payer healthcare system. As a member of the Vermont Worker’s Center, I ask you to take the road less traveled and pass S.88 and H.100.

In addition to my own, I wanted to share with you some of my mother’s experience with Medicare Part D and the infamous gap for prescription coverage. My mother is a resident of Shelburne. Medicare Part D has a curious design. It requires that you spend a certain amount of money to receive any subsidy and then you are cut off for the rest of the year. As pharmaceutical prices increase, you reach the gap that much faster. In 2008, my mother reached the gap in September. In 2009, with the increased costs of her medications she reached the gap in June and paid over $660 per month for the rest of the year for her prescriptions. My mother’s circumstance is unfortunate but typical. So many Vermonters face exorbitant monthly costs for critical medication and have to choose heat versus food versus medicine.