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Universal health care advocates hope to reinvigorate support at Vermont Statehouse

A man wearing a black mask speaks into a microphone at a podium. A group of people stand behind him.
Zoe McDonald
Vermont Public
Rep. Brian Cina speaks about the newly formed Universal Health Care Caucus at the Vermont Statehouse on Jan. 17. Rep. Emilie Krasnow, Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman, Dr. Luke Wohlford, and Rep. Saudia LaMont stand behind Cina.

A coalition of House lawmakers is trying to reignite political momentum for a universal health care system in Vermont.

The decades-long push for single-payer health care in Vermont suffered a devastating blow when then-Gov. Peter Shumlin abandoned his plan for a publicly funded system that would have provided coverage to every resident in the state.

Nine years after that setback, proponents of universal health care, such as Burlington Rep. Brian Cina, a Progressive, are hoping to push the issue back to the top of the agenda in Montpelier.

“It’s reunifying the universal health care movement in Vermont,” Cina said Wednesday. “So we may not have agreement yet on the exact pathway towards universal health care, but where we do have agreement is on the process.”

That process centers on a new coalition of Vermont lawmakers, called the Universal Health Care Caucus.

Cina said the caucus will try to build support for publicly funded health care in Montpelier by generating a groundswell of support outside the Statehouse.

“And so the formation of the caucus gives us an opportunity to create a space to not only include those who have been involved in the past but also bring in more people,” he said.

Nearly 60 House lawmakers have signed onto a bill that would, over time, replace private health insurance premiums with a public financing system.

Shumlin abandoned a previous iteration of the proposal because the tax assessments on businesses and individuals, he said at the time, would have caused undue disruption to the Vermont economy.

Proponents of universal health care say it would cut overall health care expenditures by reducing administrative costs and increasing access to preventative services.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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