BURLINGTON, VT - The White House may have hoped for a carefully structured discussion with a predictable and prescribed outcome that would fit smoothly into its desired agenda, but during the second regional forum on healthcare reform, the White House heard once again that other options are not only available but are also strongly supported by many Americans. Nurses from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire joined doctors, patients, faith and community-based leaders, healthcare reform activists and students to rally in support of single payer health reform outside the White House regional healthcare forum held in Burlington, VT, yesterday.
As the invited speakers and guests entered the Davis Student Center of the University of Vermont, more than 400 people gathered on the lawn outside to call on President Obama and other national leaders to include single payer reform in the plans seriously considered as the options to rebuild the nation's broken healthcare system.
The Maine State Nurses Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association all had RN leaders and members speaking to rally attendees and members of the press about what they see every day as they fight to advocate for patients struggling to get needed care while many either have no health coverage at all or are not adequately covered.
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"We don't need more insurance, we need healthcare for all," said RN Tammy Farwell of Maine as protestors chanted, "Everybody in, nobody out," over and over again to send a resounding message to the forum participants inside the building. Some of the nurses were able to go inside and listen to the forum as in began, but others were only able to sit in an overflow ballroom where the forum discussion was being shown on a large movie screen.
But outside the energy in support of a publicly funded, privately delivered healthcare system was punctuated with cheers and chants. Every time one of the speakers said, "healthcare is a basic human right," the crowd erupted in support of the statement that also was made by then candidate Barack Obama during the fall Presidential debates. Many of the protestors expressed their anger that President Obama has not given as much attention to the single payer plan, as crafted in HR676, "The National Health Care Act," as they believe he has done with the hybrid plans that allow for-profit, private insurance plans to stay prominently in the picture.
Unless and until the Obama administration gives serious attention and consideration to single payer reform, many of the protestors said they expect similar or even larger actions as forums convene in Iowa, North Carolina and California. Many of the member groups of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care had a presence at the rally, including Physicians for a National Health Program, Progressive Democrats of America, and HealthCare-Now.