Clergy voice support of health care legislation

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(Host) Clergy from a variety of faiths came to Montpelier to voice their support for health care reform legislation that has passed the House and the Senate.

And a new poll shows that Vermonters overwhelmingly support legislative action on health care.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The religious leaders say that their work is to help the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged.

So the clergy said they cannot stand silently as health care reform is debated in the Statehouse.

The bill is now in a conference committee. Governor Douglas has indicated he may veto it because of concerns about the financing of health care reform.

Sister Margaret Brault is with the Vermont Sisters of Mercy. She says health care is a basic right that shouldn’t depend on people’s ability to pay.

(Brault) “We urge our legislators and Governor Douglas to set aside their political differences and pass a health care reform bill this session. The time is long overdue. The time is now.”

(Dillon) The news conference by the religious leaders was organized by the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security, an advocacy group that supports health care for all.

Meanwhile, the Vermont chapter of AARP released a new poll that it says shows strong support for health care reform.

The poll posed two questions. The first asked if Governor Douglas should sign legislation that – quote “would provide affordable health care coverage to all Vermonters.”

AARP state director Greg Marchildon said the results were overwhelming. He says 80% said they want the governor to sign the bill, and that the support came from Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

(Marchildon) “When 81% of Vermonters say they want to get the job done, that should send a very strong message to the Legislature and particularly to Governor Douglas who seems to be hedging around the issue of what kind of system we ought to put in place.”

(Dillon) Governor Douglas says he’s not impressed by the poll, or surprised by the results. He says the question itself leads to an obvious answer.

(Douglas) “If you or I were asked the question, do you think the Legislature should pass health care reform?’ we’d all say yes, even if it had a name attached, I’m sure we’d all respond in the affirmative. So I don’t know if that adds a lot to the discussion. But I want to pass a bill. I want to pass a bill that accomplishes the goals I’ve outlined.”

(Dillon) The second poll question dealt with health care financing. Sixty-seven percent said they want employers who do not provide insurance to pay a fee to support expanded coverage for the uninsured.

Greg Marchildon:

(Marchildon) “People really get this. If we’re going to solve this problem, businesses, state government, individuals and families all have to contribute. And Vermonters understand that.”

(Dillon) The governor originally opposed the fee requirement for companies that don’t provide coverage. But he now says he’s willing to consider it if it’s phased in over several years.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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