House and Senate Health Care Committees Hold Statewide Hearings

by Angela Chagnon

The House and Senate Health Care Committees held a statewide hearing on their plans for a single payer health care system Monday night via interactive television. One site was available in each of Vermont’s fourteen counties. The hearing, which was scheduled for two and half hours, allowed only four to six speakers from each site to testify.

A total of 74 people testified. 57 were single payer supporters. Fourteen of the speakers were opposed to the bill, two questioned if the bill would be helpful in solving the problems with our healthcare system, and one man was concerned that the bill would affect union benefits.

Almost all (if not all) of the single payer advocates were members of the Vermont Worker’s Center (VWC) or its affiliates as evidenced by their wearing trademark red t-shirts and holding the pre-printed signs reading, “Healthcare is a Human Right”. Some did not wear the red t-shirt but stated that they were members of the organization. VWC members packed all of the locations and sat directly behind the speakers, holding their signs up to be visible on the television screens.

Chittenden County’s forum was hosted by the Vermont Technical College in Williston. Also at this location were Rep. Mark Larson (D-Burlington), chair of the House Healthcare Committe, and several other legislators including Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington) and Democratic Senators Sally Fox and Hinda Miller from Chittenden County.

Although the line of people who had signed up to testify at the Williston location filled the room and went out into the hallway, only four were allowed to testify due to the time constraint. This led two women who had been in line to speak to voice their disapproval with the layout of the forum.

“This is legislative malpractice,” said Patricia Crocker, an occupational therapist and organizer of the Green Mountain Patriots. She had been next in line to speak and directed her comments to the legislators sitting at the front of the room. “You need more public hearings, like this one, all across the state and allow more people to share their views.”

The other woman, who did not give her name, suggested a different layout that had been used a decade ago during another hotly debated issue. “During the civil union hearings, they had one person from each side, pros and cons, take turns speaking,” she said. “That worked really well.”

Mark Larson disagreed, saying that the single-payer issue “didn’t fit into yes or no.” He did not elaborate as to what he meant by this remark.


3 thoughts on “House and Senate Health Care Committees Hold Statewide Hearings

  1. Paula, I think all Vermonters support health care reform. But we don’t all support a single-payer healthcare system. It was my understanding that the hearings were about H.202, which would make it a yes or no question. The legislators are going to vote either “yes” or “no” on the bill, they cannot vote “maybe”.

    As for the “grassroots” organizations pushing single payer in Vermont, please read the article at this link:

    Also this:
    “In another sign of the urgency gripping the pro-health care reform camp, billionaire George Soros has pledged to sink $5 million into the fight, the group getting the money confirmed.
    Soros — whose operation carefully guards the privacy of such donations — made the pledge to Health Care For America Now, the leading coalition of pro-reform groups, unions and providers, HCAN chief Richard Kirsch confirmed in an email that was forwarded to me.”
    –Greg Sargent, “The Plum Line” blog

    “VPIRG leads the Vermont state coalition for the national Health Care for America Now (HCAN). Health care advocate, Susan Baker, was joined by Vermont representatives from AFL-CIO and TrueMajority to attend the rally and lobby our federal delegation.” –VPIRG website (

    Dr. Deb Richter, a lobbyist working with the Worker’s Center’s “Healthcare is a Human Right” campaign (which is also a national campaign), is one of the main pushers behind the single payer movement in Vermont. This is an excerpt from an article written by Rob Roper in 2005:

    “It turns out the person who cares most about Dr. [Deb] Richter is not a Vermonter at all: He is the Hungarian-born multi-billionaire George Soros (who, among other things, was convicted for insider trading in 2002). The same George Soros who gave $25 million to radical left-wing “issue” groups during the last election. So far, Soros’ Open Society Institute has funneled Richter $107,454 to impose his weird world vision on Vermont.
    Two other organizations listed as providing funds for Dr. Richter’s activities in Vermont, The Haymarket People’s Fund and Physicians for a National Health Program are also out-of-state organizations with no real ties to Vermont.”
    –Rob Roper, Freedom Works e-mail alert, Oct. 4 2005

  2. Not all “pro” health care reform testifiers were members of Vermont Worker’s Center, at least at my site. But since there are members from every county all over the state, and it is a grass roots organization like Green Mountain Patriots or Vermonters for Healthcare Freedom , does it matter? I think it wasn’t a yes or no question because we were asked to testify about our thoughts & experiences with healthcare.

  3. ‘Mark Larson disagreed, saying that the single-payer issue “didn’t fit into yes or no.” He did not elaborate as to what he meant by this remark”.

    I guess it’s yes beccause we won’t listen to know. What this means to me is “yes and it will cost me dough”.

    I am so sick of being the financial arm of the government teats.

    Healthcare: Payroll tax

    Unemployment insurance: Raise the base to the first 16K. Don’t require employees to pick a dime for their insurance.

    Budget deficit: Tax on services. My hourly rate not only covers payroll but also, unemployment insurance, worker’s comp. insurance, liabilty insurance, auto insurance, office rent, 3.59 per gallon gasoline, tools, computers, cell phones and office equipment and supplies.

    All to pay for programs that makes everything “fair”.

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