Medical students rally for single-payer system in Vermont

By Daniel Staples, Staff Writer
Times-Argus (Barre-Montpelier, Vt.), March 27, 2011

MONTPELIER, Vt. — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke before health profession students who gathered Saturday at the Statehouse in support of single-payer health care.

The Vermont House passed a version of the universal health care bill, which is being championed by Shumlin, with a party-line vote of 92-49 Thursday.

The bill, which will be debated in the Senate, is a critical step toward the creation of a publicly financed medical system that would deliver benefits to every resident of the state.

The students, who came from New England, New York and Pennsylvania, and as far away as Oregon, expressed concerns over the mire of paperwork and bureaucracy that they say would hamper them from practicing medicine in the way they are being trained to.

“I want my future patients to have a comprehensive health care insurance,” said Larry Bodden, a medical student at the University of Vermont.

“Whether or not the single-payer health care reforms are passed could have an effect on where I decide to practice,” Bodden said.

Bodden said he believes having a single-payer system could draw top medical professionals to the state to practice.

Bodden and 38 other medical students at the school have written and signed a letter that lays out what they would like to see in a single-payer health care system that included attracting high-quality health care professionals to the state. The letter, Bodden said, is the students’ way to influence the passing of single-payer health care reforms.

“Our goal is to have a single-payer system that is balanced and sustainable,” Bodden said.

UVM Medical School student Calvin Kegan said he came out for the event because he thinks that, “as Vermont is courageously undertaking the path to universal health care that is more sustainable as a whole, it is important for future health care professionals to express their support for legislation that could affect them throughout their entire practices.”

Kegan said that he believes the current system is frustrating for physicians as the paperwork and bureaucracy can be cumbersome.

A copy of the letter was presented to Sanders, who said that he would submit it to be included in the congressional record.

“It’s inspiring,” said Sanders. “It’s one thing for Vermonters to get behind this cause, but when you see physicians and young people from all over leading the way for health care reform, you begin to see that they are saying that they can’t provide the care they want to with the system we have in place now.”

Sanders said that politicians and lobbyists, including those for drug and insurance companies in Washington, are watching the progress of the Vermont health-care bill very closely.

“If we win here, they know it will spread,” Sanders said.

In his address to the crowd, Sanders said that under the current system patients often wait too long to seek care, and when they finally do, they are much sicker, which leads to more hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Sanders said that with a new system, patients will be able to seek care before their conditions reach such desperate stages.

Shumlin touted his belief that Vermont can lead the way for health care reform for the nation.

Hundreds Of Health Advocates Rally For Single Payer System

Doctors Say It Would Save Money, Provide Better Treatment

WPTZ TV News (Burlington, Vt.), March 26, 2011

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Hundreds of health advocates and lawmakers rallied for a single payer health system inside Vermont's Statehouse Saturday afternoon. The sweep of support comes two days after Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill for a single payer system.

There was little room to move as medical students and Vermont lawmakers packed the conference room. Many stood up one by one to make their appeals for single payer, which they say will better serve patients.

"A single payer system is the kind of system that really gives you the freedom to not only choose who you're health care provider is, but freedom for a healthcare provider to provide the treatment that best fits," Dr. Elizabeth Samuels, who is studying at Tufts University said.

"The are saying in order to do our profession right we have to provide health care to every man, woman, and child and they must do it in a cost effective way," U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said.

Physicians say single payer healthcare will cut spending because patients can be seen more frequently and faster, which will prevent a more time-consuming and costly treatment.

Ultimately, those rallying hope to see the same sweep of approval for single payer healthcare by Vermont state senators.

Supporting single payer

By Andy Potter
WCAX TV News (Montpelier, Vt.), March 26, 2011

MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Advocates of a single payer health care system in Vermont rallied at the state house Saturday.  It came following the passage of a single payer bill in the House this week.

It had the feel of a labor rally, and in fact many of the advocates of single payer work in health care or attend medical school.

"What is unique and important about your presence here today is that you are saying I want to be the best doctor that I can be, but I can't be that unless we change the system," said Senator Bernie Sanders.

When it comes to single payer, the devil is in the details. For instance, Governor Shumlin has put off any discussion of how to pay for single payer -- which taxes to raise -- and what to do about unions, which have negotiated generally pretty good benefits for themselves.

Many advocates say they're not concerned about losing income in the medical profession under single payer.

"Having a single payer being able to control payments in a way. They're able to negotiate prices down and overall create a cheaper health care system for all," said Stanton Shek of the Dartmouth Medical School.  When asked if he is to work for less money, Shek Replied, "Yes, although it's not about less money. A doctor's main concern is for patients."

"I want to be able to care for everyone. Right now people are not coming in. Their deductibles are too high or they don't have insurance. And they're not getting the care they need," said Primary Care Doctor Peggy Carey.   When asked if she was willing to work for less money, Carey replied, "absolutely."

Supporters of single payer say that's the way it's supposed to be -- the patient comes first. That's the ideal at work here.

Full story, with video footage: