The Little State that Could: Vermont Can Lead the Way to Universal Healthcare and Beyond
In 2008 the Vermont Workers' Center launched the grassroots Healthcare is a Human Right (HCHR) campaign to make Vermont the first state in the country with a universal healthcare system. Before we launched the campaign, we talked to thousands of Vermonters who shared heart-breaking stories of illness, bankruptcy, and even death as a result of the broken healthcare system. For far too long, Vermonters have been suffering under a system which treats our healthcare as commodity and not a human right and crucial decisions about healthcare have been made by a handful of powerful insurance companies and their lobbyists.
When we started we were told that universal healthcare was politically impossible in Vermont, but after organizing in every county of the state to build a groundswell of grassroots power, we proved that it was politically possible. When we we were on the brink of passing our universal healthcare law we had a surprise last minute challenge, but one we had been waiting for--an amendment was added on in the Senate to exclude undocumented workers. We knew that this issue would at some point come up, but we didn’t know when. In fact, during the first year of the campaign we held anti-racism trainings with leaders of the Catalyst Project, attended by 170+ VWC members. We completely affirmed that universal = everyone and practiced our talking points. That work paid off. Even after the Governor’s office told us there was a 0% chance that the amendment would be struck from the bill, thousands of Vermonters contacted their legislators and rallied against it.
Five days later the amendment was dropped and twenty days later Act 48 was signed into law, legislating the country’s first universal healthcare system. It establishes that healthcare is a public good and the new system, Green Mountain Care, must be designed so that the benefits and financing meet human rights principles.
The importance of this victory cannot be understated. If Vermont can actually implement universal healthcare, we can lead the way for states across the country to do the same. People in Maryland, California, Oregon, New York, and Maine are already working together on using strategies from the HCHR campaign in their states. It is already happening.
Come hear more about the Vermont breakthrough this week:
Saturday, August 11, 6-9pm. Vermont Can Lead the Way Benefit. 747 Lobos Avenue, Richmond, CA.
Authors Suzanne Gordon and Steve Early host a fundraiser for the VWC. Learn more about Vermont’s universal healthcare breakthrough, what the national healthcare industry is doing to block fundamental reform, and how Californians can assist this struggle, while fighting for single payer here. For more information, call Steve at 617-930-7327 or emailLsupport@aol.com
Sunday August 12, 3-5pm: Organizing for Human Rights Workshop - The Grassroots Struggle for Universal Healthcare. Sponsored by the Catalyst Project. 518 Valencia Street, San Francisco
In this workshop, VWC leaders will discuss lessons from the HCHR campaign & how they are working to build a broad grassroots movement for human rights & real democracy. This workshop will include:
• Human rights framing for use in grassroots organizing and policy analysis
• Popular education and grassroots media tools for healthcare organizing
• Lessons learned
This space is wheelchair accessible and scent-free. Please email Ari@collectiveliberation.org if you need childcare or any other accommodations to be able to participate.
If you can’t make it to the events, please endorse the HCHR campaign online at www.vermontcanleadtheway.org. We need all the support we can get from people across the country to set up the healthcare system we envision--one that puts people first.
James Haslam is the Director of the Vermont Workers’ Center and has worked with the organization since 1999. He is the father of two young sons, who inspire him daily to keep fighting for a better world which demands human rights for all.