Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Single payer activists protest and participate in Vermont health care meeting

When health care experts, medical providers, patients, legislators and the public met for a second regional health care meeting, some 200 single payer advocates were on hand to make sure their message did not go unheard. And while single payer isn't officially "on the table," it was definitely raised in the questions and comments session inside the meeting, following remarks by Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont, and, by video, President Obama. While Governor Patrick defended the Massachusetts universal care program as an improvement over the options of "perfect or nothing", Dr. Deb Richter, who was a main organizer of the protest through, asked the assembly, "why don't we just say, `Everybody in, one system,' and pay for it through taxes?"

With a few stark exceptions, most of the participants in the forum were insured--a call for the uninsured participants to raise hands sent only a few into the air. The inconvenient time and out of the way location of the forum also limited participation. It would have said more about the Obama administration's commitment to inclusion to hold this event in the evening, in a huge auditorium in a more centrally-located city. However, the majority of demonstrators were supportive of the Obama administration, and felt confident that citizen activism would lead to a HR 676-like program.

Labor leaders who attended were disappointed that the concerns of hourly, non-union, and underemployed workers were not addressed, nor were nurses able to speak to their concerns, although there were many demonstrating outside. (We posted a statement from the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare on our headline blog here.)

You can read new about the summit here in the Boston Globe, here in the Burlington Free Press, here in Forbes, and watch footage of local tv coverage here and here.

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