Over 150 community members participated in a forum on our Human Right to Helathcare last night at the Imani Center in the Old North End of Burlington. Nearly a dozen Chittenden Co. Legislatures were present, mainly to listen, as the focus was on the voices of the people.
We heard compelling testimony from Burlington resident Felicia Smith who spoke of her inability to afford $700 monthly premiums for the Catamount health plan for her family as a part time worker.
Shelburne resident Pat Flanagan spoke about nearly dying because of bleeding from stomach ulsers caused by too much aspirin which he took to relieve a bad tooth ache over a long period of time because he could not afford the dental care he needed. He also explained that he was unemployed because his electrical workers union cannot compete for jobs with contractors who do not provide health benefits for staff.
Similarly, Judith Janone, a long time Burlington city employee argued how unjust it was that her part time colleague must pay more than a third of her wage to provide her family with health insurance. "Healthcare should not be tied to employment," Judith declared.
Jo Beauchemin of Burlington delivered moving testimony about how the policies and practices of the for-profit health industry has kept her and her husband financially imprisoned because of multiple illnesses.
The final testifier was Karen Quill, a Fletcher Allen ICU Nurse and vice president of the Fletcher Allen Nurses Union. Karen spoke passionately about the number of people she sees in the ICU who should never have been there in the first place. Many people who do not have insurance, or have unreasonable co-pays and deductibles, wait to seek care when they experience minor symptoms until it is too late and often end up suffering and dying because of the fear of financial burden associated with healthcare.
Each testifier spoke with passion and conviction which created a somber yet emotionally charged atmosphere.
After the testifiers spoke, the legislators were read the goals of the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign along with 5 Human Rights principles, Equity, Universality, Accountability, Transparency and Participation.
Each legislative member present affirmed that any healthcare policy must reflect these Human Rights principles.
When given time to speak about the obstacles we face as we attempt fundamental Healthcare reform at the state level the legislator's responses were varied though one idea was clear throughout; now that federal reform is proving to fall far short of our Human Right to Health, it is time for the state of Vermont to lead, once again. Yet the only way that there will be the political will to enact meaningful reform is for the people of Vermont to demand it.
Vermonters all over the state are organizing in a grassroots movement to demand healthcare is a basic human right. We cannot and will not wait any longer. To get involved with the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign call 802-861-4892 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.