The Human Right to Health Care in Vermont

December 10, 2009

Rally at the Vermont State House in Montpelier.
Rally at the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

Communities across the country are demanding the human right to health care, while Congress is tweaking its latest version of health insurance legislation that continues to treat health care as a commodity.

This unacceptable discrepancy between public will and corporate power in Washington, DC, is being challenged by state-based campaigns for the human right to health care. Activists in states such as California and Vermont have their eyes on a prize much grander than anything Congress is willing to consider: single payer health care at state level. So it’s no coincidence that it is Vermont’s U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I) who seeks to change the health bill under discussion in the U.S. Senate by introducing an amendment that would make it easier for states to go it alone and implement a Medicare-for-All, publicly financed health care system in their state.

Vermont is ready for it, and activists think they could even manage without such federal assistance. Over the past few months, the Vermont Workers’ Center’s campaign has organized a series of People’s Forums across the state with the involvement of over 70 state legislators and more than 800 Vermonters. Participants affirmed the importance of establishing a universal, equitable and accountable healthcare system in Vermont. Bekah Mandell, a forum facilitator and campaign activist, summarizes their mood: “Ordinary Vermonters will continue to put pressure on their elected representatives until we win this fundamental human right. It is clear to us, now, that we can win, and we will win.”

On January 6, the first working day of the 2010 legislative session, the Vermont Workers’ Center will deliver thousands of signed postcards demanding health care as a human right. The legislative leadership announced at a recent People’s Forum that hearings on a single payer bill will begin on January 12.

In the spirit of solidarity with community activists, a committed group of musicians has taken to the microphone and recorded a benefit CD in support of realizing health care as a human right. Blues singer/guitarist Scott Ainslie pulled together nine other recording artists and produced “Care for All”, a compilation CD to support the Healthcare Is A Human Right campaign of the Vermont Workers’ Center, a social and labor justice organization in based in Burlington, Vermont. The CD includes a special appearance by Sen. Sanders, with his words set to music. Grammy Award-winning engineer Corin Nelsen and Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios donated mixing and mastering.

Scott Ainslie proves that the musicians get it:

The premise here is simple: when we agree that healthcare is a human right, public policy will move toward a healthcare delivery system that is based upon medical need rather than corporate greed. The campaign’s goal is to gain widespread agreement that healthcare is a public good, not a commodity; a component of the commonwealth, not private wealth; and a human right, not an economic privilege.

Campaigners, communities and musicians alike are confident that Vermont is firmly on the track to becoming the country’s first single payer state, and the first to recognize and protect the human right to health care.

Anja Rudiger is a Guest Contributor.