VERMONT: FIRST IN THE NATION

"We have a problem, we need to solve it."

“We have a problem, we need to solve it.”

This comment by House Speaker Shap Smith of Vermont reflects a no-nonsense, hands-on, can-do attitude you don’t often find in legislatures these days. Instead, when most so-called “leaders” are confronted with a problem, they tend to say “We need to cover it up,” or “We need to turn it into a political football.” But Smith and a big majority of his Vermont colleagues refused to play games with one of the biggest issues confronting them and the people of every state: affordable health care for all.

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They knew that the current high-cost, low-quality, you’re-on-your-own system was literally killing people, even as it was draining the budgets of governments and businesses. Costs of health care in Vermont have doubled in the last decade to roughly $5 billion a year and continue to go up by $1 million a day – even as 47,000 Vermonters have no coverage and most others have only D.G.S. health insurance: Don’t Get Sick.

Angry about this, a strong grassroots campaign for universal care has been steadily building across Vermont, culminating this year in H.202. This bill would establish a state health “exchange” authorized to set up a single-payer style health care system, dubbed Green Mountain Care.

The bill faced the usual opposition from special interests and know-nothings (one House Republican decried the very idea of universal coverage as the “keystone in the arch of socialism”). But with stout public support, Green Mountain Care passed the House 92-49 and the Senate 21-9. On May 26, Governor Pete Shumlin, who had made this issue central in his campaign last year, signed the bill, making Vermont first in the nation to go to the core of necessary reform by enacting a single-payer law.

For information, go to www.vermontforsinglepayer.com.

“Vt. House Passes Single-Payer Health Care Bill,” www.commondreams.org, March 25, 2011.

“Vermont physician’s work pays off on health care,” www.boston.com, May 1, 2011.

“Happy Birthday, Romneycare! Vermont’s ‘Green Mountain Care’ is Better,” www.winningprogressive.org., May 31, 2011.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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