Legislators hear public testimony on health care reform

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(Host) More than 150 Vermonters packed the House chamber on Thursday night to share their stories and offer their suggestions about improving Vermont’s health care system.

The House and Senate Health Committees heard about one man’s difficulties getting emergency dental care. Lawmakers listened as another person pleaded with them to make sure nursing homes aren’t closed.

Beven Barbara Campbell of Plainfield brought her young baby to the witness table. She said the birth of her twins last year contributed to about $18,000 in medical expenses, or about half her family’s income.

(Campbell) “If we had no medical events whatsoever, our insurance premiums and medications would still add to a quarter of our income. Obviously the majority of our medical bills remain unpaid. I don’t know what the government or society considers a reasonable distribution of one’s income, but I would guess that no one single expense should equal half of one’s income.”

(Host) Others told the committee they knew how difficult the task is before them.

Amy Shollenberger, a single parent from Johnson, said she struggled for years to pay insurance and medical bills for her son. She said she was often in the situation of signing over her entire paycheck to cover health costs.

(Shollenberger) “That’s my story. Here are my three requests. The first one is, be courageous. Don’t take the easy route. Make sure everyone is covered all the time. Health care should be a basic human right. The second one is, give us choices. Don’t dictate where we can go for care. Allow for alternatives. And the third is, believe in yourselves. You can find the solutions.”

(Host) Neither of the Health Committees has drafted a bill, although the House panel has been working to come up with some specific initiatives that can be enacted this year. They see that as a first step toward a broader reform package that would be debated and voted on next year.

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