Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign

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The Vermont Breakthrough! How a Human Rights Movement Is Winning a Healthcare System that Puts People First

 Since 2008, the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign has been organizing to make publicly-financed, universal healthcare a reality in Vermont. In 2011, our people’s movement succeeded in getting a groundbreaking law passed: Act 48, which commits Vermont to providing healthcare as a public good and ensuring everyone can get the healthcare they need, when they need it.

However, after repeated delays, in December 2014 Vermont's governor Peter Shumlin announced he would no longer pursue public financing for Green Mountain Care -- despite Act 48 committing the state to do so. The governor's decision was political, not economic, revealing powerful opposition to universal healthcare from big businesses and his wealthy allies.

Bolstered by a national letter of support signed by 70 organizations, the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign responded by turning out in force on inauguration day, January 8th, for a powerful rally inside the State House, which culminated in a sit-in and the arrest of 29 campaign members. This powerful act of civil disobedience recieved support from across the country, including Rev. Dr. William Barber II, architect of the Moral Mondays movement, who issued a letter of support and called on people of faith to join him.

In February, the HCHR Campaign released its own proposal for financing Green Mountain Care, endorsed by more than 100 economists and introduced as a bill in the legislature, H.475. We also released a short 3 minute video explaining the financing plan. However, despite a strong mandate and a deepening healthcare crisis, most legislators were unwilling to move forward with financing Act 48 in the 2015 legislative session -- part of a troubling trend which also included cuts to essential programs and services.

Supporters of the campaign were undeterred, as we continued to hear story after story of people battling with insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, and struggling to get the care they needed through Vermont's healthcare exchange.

On Tax Day 2015, dozens of supporters marched on BCBS's headquarters, denouncing the millions in tax breaks enjoyed by the company while paying Wall Street salaries to their executives. When the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the US Supreme Court, we responded with an OpEd outlining the failures of it's market-based system and the need to move forward with healthcare as a public good. And when BCBS proposed yet another consecutive rate hike (8.6%) for its 2016 Vermont Health Connect plans, we mobilized supporters to oppose the hikes and called for BCBS to be administered as a public corporation for the public good.

Now in 2016, Vermont Workers' Center members are canvassing our neighborhoods with a new Inequality survey drawing out the intersections between injustices in the workplace and our healthcare system. The rights-based model pioneered in Vermont is recieving national attention and has helped to inspire campaigns in Maine and Pennsylvania, with whom we partner through the Healthcare is a Human Right Collaborative, launched in September 2015. While we're buyoed by the national conversation around universal healthcare in the 2016 presidential election cycle, we know that it will take a grassroots-led movement powerful enough to overcome entrenched elite interests in order to win healthcare as a human right for all people in Vermont and the US. Join us to make it happen!

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