WCAX: Health care bill in the home stretch

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Montpelier, Vermont - May 1, 2011

A celebration and a call to action in Vermont's capital city Sunday. More than a thousand Vermonters rallied at the Statehouse in Montpelier to cheer last week's preliminary passage of the health care reform bill, and -- according to those in attendance -- to build momentum for the long road to universal access.

A sea of Vermonters marched down State Street Sunday, headed for the steps of the Statehouse and a noontime rally to celebrate health care reform.

The Health Care Is a Human Right Campaign is overjoyed that the Vermont Senate passed H202 last week. The bill that moves the state towards a single payer health care system.

"It's a celebration and it's also a call to action that we know that this is just another step -- Many steps that are going to have to happen before we get to our ultimate end where health care is a human right for all Vermonters," said Peg Franzen with the Vermont Workers' Center, the group that sponsored the event.

The rally drew hundreds from all corners of the state -- a crowd that crossed generations. "It's really beautiful to know that people actually are -- in a generation that allegedly is so apathetic -- it feels good to know that people are getting together. It feels even better to be a part of it," said Drusilla Roessle, a University of Vermont student.

But the road ahead is a long one -- not everyone agrees that a single payer system is the solution to skyrocketing costs -- and numerous questions remain. Questions over financing, the benefits package for Vermont residents, and reimbursement for the state's health care providers. Legislators are now working to iron out differences in the Health and Senate versions of the single payer bill. And these folks want changes to be made -- in particular, a last minute amendment that bars illegal immigrants from being covered under Green Mountain Care.

"It is also an indication and a movement of how far we have to go. We still have a long way to go. We have to fight several amendments that have been put into the bill. So this is kind of a celebration and a push," said Walter Carpenter, with the Vermont Workers' Center.

"It's a big hurdle, but there's still a lot more to do. I didn't really have any doubts about Vermont. We need Vermont to set the example for the rest of the country so we've got to keep the momentum going, keep the pressure on so that it happens right in Vermont and we do this right so the rest of the country can follow suit," said said Daniel Filstein, a UVM Student.

And they hope that momentum is in play on Monday, when a legislative panel meets to mend the differences in the single payer bill. One small step to celebrate here, many more to go.

Bridget Barry Caswell - WCAX News