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.