Since the start of the new Congressional session, the Republicans in Washington, DC have been very busy. They are working frantically to pass a budget that could take away health insurance from tens of millions of Americans, privatize Medicare, make massive cuts to Medicaid, and defund Planned Parenthood. All of this will endanger America’s seniors, people with disabilities, nursing home residents, the middle class, and low-income families.
Here in Vermont, we have been busy, too. This past Sunday, on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more than 1,000 Vermonters turned out to a rally to “Save Health Care” from this Republican assault. Joining the tens of thousands of Americans attending solidarity rallies across the country, these Vermonters made a loud and clear declaration: protecting and promoting the health of all people in this state is an urgent priority.
It seems, however, that the Vermont GOP disagrees. In response, to our new Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman’s participation in the rally, Vermont’s Republicans put out a statement urging “Zuckerman to immediately shift his focus from Washington D.C. to right here in Vermont.” (http://vtgop.org/vt-republicans-statement-on-lt-governor-zuckermans-political-rally/)
Apparently, the Vermont GOP thinks the health and well-being of thousands of Vermonters is an “inside the Beltway” issue. This may come as a shock not only to Sunday’s rally attendees, but also to the 35,000 Vermonters who could lose their health insurance and the 13,000 Vermonters who could lose newly gained Medicaid coverage if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed. The thousands of Vermonters with preexisting conditions who could pay higher insurance premiums, and potentially be denied coverage without the ACA, might also disagree with the state GOP. Finally, Vermont’s taxpayers facing a statewide loss of $2.9 billion in federal funding over the next decade and increased “uncompensated care costs” might be baffled by Vermont Republicans’ lack of immediate action in response to these national threats by their own party. (Please see the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ analysis of the effects of ACA repeal in Vermont http://www.cbpp.org/.../12-7-16health-factsheets-vt.pdf)
Ultimately, Vermonters who will be impacted by policy changes at the national level might be very eager to know what exactly Vermont Republicans mean when they say they will be “working to find solutions to these significant challenges within our own borders.” In other words, will the state GOP and our new Governor Phil Scott stand with Vermonters to protect health care?
At Sunday’s rally we heard from a woman with three part-time jobs, who depends on the ACA to cover medical bills that would otherwise lead to financial ruin. We heard from nurses afraid for their patients who are dependent on the ACA, Medicare, and/or Medicaid for life-sustaining and life-saving treatments. We heard from a freelance writer whose lack of an employer-based plan would leave her uninsured without the ACA. We heard a disability rights peer advocate demand that our elected officials think about people with disabilities when making policy changes that could potentially undercut needed services. And, most importantly, we heard the chants of an overflow crowd of 1,000-plus Vermonters expressing their commitment to making universal health care a reality in Vermont—regardless of what comes out of Washington, DC.
Now we would like to hear from our Governor.
We don’t have to wait for the completion of the Congressional budget process. We are asking today whether Governor Scott will stand with Vermonters in opposition to any threats to their health care? Will Governor Scott work with the numerous statewide organizations who co-sponsored Sunday’s rally not just to protect health care in Vermont, but to improve it. Will he support efforts in the State House to ensure that all Vermonters have access to primary and preventative care, hospital and nursing home services, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and necessary medications?
Vermont can, and should, do better than Washington, DC. We should never settle for policies that do not reflect the values of our state, including the right to high-quality health care for all Vermonters.
Today we ask the Vermont GOP and Governor Scott to join us in standing up for Vermont values.
Jessica Early, RN is a member of Rights & Democracy, who helped organize the Sunday January 15, 2017 “Save Health Care” rally at Burlington High School. The rally was attended by over 1,000 Vermonters and co-sponsored by over 15 different statewide organizations in Vermont.
(See complete list of co-sponsors here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1852843918318549/)