Leading Vermont unions, consumer groups urge Legislature and governor forward on Green Mountain Care

Press Release, Vermont for Single Payer, Dec. 2, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Sixteen of Vermont’s leading unions, consumer advocacy organizations and health care reform groups joined together today to urge Governor Shumlin and the Vermont Legislature to move forward implementing Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s universal publicly funded health care system set to begin in 2017.

Groups participating in the press conference were VSEA, AFSCME Local 93, Vermont NEA, Vermont Workers Center, Vermont CURE, VPIRG, United Professions of Vermont/American Federation of Teachers, Main Street Alliance, Vermont Interfaith Action, League of Women Voters, Green Mountain Self Advocates, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Vermont Health Care for All, Vermont Leads, Vermont AFL-CIO and UE Northeast Region.

Participants conceded that although Democrats did have a net loss of seats in the House, many of those losses occurred in districts that were not historically strong Democratic seats such as St Johnsbury, Enosburg Falls, Saint Albans City and the Wardsboro area. However, many pro-universal health care challengers won in difficult districts such as Chip Troiano in Hardwick/Walden, Robin Tangerman in Middletown Springs and Steve Berry in Manchester. And many pro-universal health care incumbents survived what were predicted to be strong challenges from opponents of Green Mountain Care such as Sarah Buxton, Jean O’Sullivan, Joanna Cole, Tommy Walz and Susan Hatch Davis. Finally, it was noted that in Democratic primaries in seats for Middlebury, Norwich/Thetford and Windham Senate among others, pro Green Mountain Care candidates were victorious.

Martha Allen, President of Vermont NEA: “You may have heard that this election was about a repudiation of Vermont’s efforts to establish publicly financed, universally available health care. Well, as the president of the state’s largest union, I believe that it is more important than ever to see this through. I and my fellow Vermont-NEA members strongly support Green Mountain Care, and urge the governor and legislature to get down to business right now so that all Vermonters will understand that a publicly financed, universally available health care system is better for all of us.”

Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter and Chairman of the Board, the Vermont CURE: "The election changed the legislature a little bit, but it did not change the fact that our current health care system produces mediocre results at very high cost, and leaves lots of Vermonters without access to basic health care at all. The election also didn't change the fact that Green Mountain Care, as envisioned in Act 48, represents the best current thinking and experience from around the world on how to provide great care to every Vermonter while containing costs."

Daniel Barlow VBSR Public Policy Manager: “Delinking heath insurance from employment will allow businesses to do what businesses do best - expand operations, create jobs, and increase the wages of hard-working Vermonters. Our current health care system is a ball and chain around the ankle of our economy.”

Falko Shilling, VPIRG Health Care Advocate: “Vermonters spend almost 20 cents of every dollar they earn on health care, and we need a way to contain out of control costs. Green Mountain Care would guarantee every Vermonter high quality health coverage, and save us all money in the process. Vermont has an incredible opportunity to improve how we deliver health care as a state, and VPIRG fully supports efforts to move forward with the implementation of Green Mountain Care.”

Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance: “The rising costs of healthcare are increasingly unaffordable for small businesses and many Vermont businesses can’t afford to provide health insurance for their employees. Green Mountain Care will ensure that everyone has access to healthcare regardless of employment.”

James Haslam, Executive Director, Vermont Workers' Center: "It's time for Vermont elected officials to stand up for a health care system that truly works for the people, that is designed and planned with the people. We are going to be organizing on an unprecedented scale to move this forward in the coming year."

Debbie Ingram, Director of Vermont Interfaith Action: “The concept that we are meant to care for our neighbors, common to all faith traditions, extends to health care. We must all pull together and create a new system where everyone can get preventive care and necessary treatment, no matter their job or situation.”

Mari Cordes, RN and VP Healthcare AFT-Vermont: “What we as health care providers want most is for anyone who needs medical attention be able to do so as early as possible with no barriers to accessing care, not when their condition worsens or becomes life threatening (and much more costly to treat). Get the insurance companies out of our exam rooms and get our hard earned money out of administrative waste and exorbitant CEO compensation. A universal publicly funded health care system is the only way to do that. It's simple, it's less expensive, and it's time. As strong union members, we will continue to stand on the right side of history and work with our elected leaders to ensure that we succeed in being the first state to lead the nation with a single payer system.

Dr. Deb Richter of Vermont Health Care for All: "The quality of health care in Vermont is good. We are rated near the top compared with other states. Unfortunately, many people can't afford to access that care. We need to change that.  And the time is now. We are in a unique political moment in time. Vermont is poised to enact the first publicly funded universal health care system .We are asking our legislature to fulfill their promise to enact a financing plan that pays for Vermonters health care in a way that is fair to all and based on ability to pay."

Peter Sterling, Director of Vermont Leads: This past election cycle, I worked with many candidates for the Vermont House and Senate and talked to hundreds of Vermonters statewide in the process. Nowhere did I hear an overwhelming sentiment that Vermont should not continue on its path towards a universal, publicly funded health care system. If anything, this election seems to reinforce that Vermonters are finding the Exchange too costly, too confusing and difficult to understand. It’s clear to me we need to abandon the Exchange in 2017 and move to Green Mountain Care.”