Mobilizing for single payer

By Steve Ramey

BURLINGTON, Vt.--Some 200 people from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and Massachusetts demonstrated outside Barack Obama's March 17 regional health care summit at the University of Vermont.

Vermont Health Care for All (VTHCA) and other groups organized the noon rally to inject the issue of a single payer health care system into the debate.

The White House's featured speakers at the summit were Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. They presided over a tightly controlled invitation-only event dominated by defenders of the insurance industry.

Meanwhile, health care workers, nurses' unions, retirees and other advocates for public health care from all over the northeast held a rally, chanting, "Health care is a human right, stand up and fight!" "Everybody in, nobody out!" and "Hey hey, ho ho, insurance companies have got to go!"

Donna Smith from Michael Moore's film Sicko cheered the crowd on. "Get louder--we're going to make it happen!" she said.

Dawn Stanger from the Vermont Worker's Center told the crowd. "We were for single payer before it was considered politically possible; now, it's a political necessity."

Deb Richter, head of VTHCA, pointed out that "Barack Obama said at an AFL-CIO meeting in 2003 that he was an advocate of the single-payer health care system. He said we had to take back the White House and take back the Senate and take back the House, which they've done. Now it's time to get the single-payer bill he promised. The marginalized majority wants health care for all."

Organizers of the rally support Rep. John Conyers' H.R. 676 single-payer bill in Congress.