Press Release - Vermont Passes Legislation to Establish Universal Healthcare

VERMONT WORKERS’ CENTER - HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT CAMPAIGN

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Tuesday May 11th 2010***
Contact: James Haslam, (802) 272 0882, james@workerscenter.org

VERMONT PASSES LEGISLATION TO ESTABLISH UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE

MONTPELIER, Vt. - On Tuesday, Vermont lawmakers passed a healthcare bill requiring the state to create plans for establishing a universal healthcare system based on human rights principles. One of three design plans to be submitted for implementation must be a publicly-funded single payer system, according to S. 88, the "Universal Access To Healthcare Act." Passage of this bill came a little over a week after U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders joined over fifteen hundred Vermonters at a "Healthcare is a Human Right" rally at Vermont's Statehouse.

"This is a huge victory for us. It is clear that it will be up to the states to truly establish healthcare as a public good and not as a commodity. We now have a very good chance to do just that in Vermont," said Mari Cordes, RN, a leader of the campaign from Lincoln, VT. Walter Carpenter, a campaign leader from Montpelier, VT, who three years ago fought liver disease and insurance companies, recalling how both of these nearly killed him, approached Senators Racine, Lyons, Kittell and others who supported passage of the bill. He was visibly holding back tears of joy as he hugged and thanked the senators. The lawmakers in turn thanked him and the campaign, saying that if it weren't for the campaign's tenacious fight to keep the issue at the political forefront, along with the persistent efforts of thousands of regular Vermonters who support the campaign, this would not have happened today.

At the beginning of the legislative session in January, the passage of S.88 was considered politically impossible, but an outpouring of support for fundamental change from thousands of Vermonters taking part in the "Healthcare is a Human Right" campaign created a different political climate. This victory comes after two years of state-wide community organizing by the Vermont Workers' Center, which runs the campaign. It has involved thousands of Vermonters around the state in a grassroots effort pushing for a comprehensive redesign of the state's healthcare system around human rights principles.

Last year, the Campaign held the first "Healthcare Is A Human Right" rally at the Statehouse. With over twelve hundred people participating, it was the largest weekday rally in the state's history. Building on that momentum, the campaign organized eleven "People's Forums on Healthcare" around the state. Eighty state legislators attended the forums with over eight hundred participants testifying about the healthcare crisis and laying out human rights principles to act as guidelines for new healthcare policy.

These human rights guidelines were included in S.88, the new "Universal Access To Healthcare Act," as standards that any healthcare system design must meet. The legislation calls for the hiring of consultants to design three universal health care plans for implementation in Vermont. One of these plans must be a single-payer system that is publicly financed and publicly administered and is completely decoupled from employment. All three plans must meet the "Healthcare is a Human Right" standards. The plans must be submitted to the legislature in January 2011, which will adopt one of the designs for implementation to begin no later than July 2012.

"This victory was a result of a growing grassroots movement for our basic human rights," said James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers’ Center. "What we want is really simple: a healthcare system that makes our human right to healthcare a reality in Vermont and that puts healthcare dollars into actual healthcare services, not into profits, marketing, or administration. We need a plan for how a state can go from a wasteful market-based system to a simple, rational system that protects everyone's health. Federal reform has failed to provide such a plan." Haslam then added, "There are more battles ahead, but this victory was a necessary step to winning healthcare for all."

More information is available at www.healthcareisahumanright.org

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