Here’s a safe bet. If I say health care, you don’t think about fairy tales. The two have nothing to do with each other. But they do. We were told stories when we were young, and we’re told stories now: some about health care. We learned to believe some and not others. We knew “Cinderella” wasn’t true. It didn’t pretend to be. But stories we’re told about health care, those we’re supposed to believe. But which ones are true and which are not? That’s confusing.
Dental care is a good example. We’re told to brush and floss twice a day and get our teeth cleaned and examined twice a year. We’re told poor oral health can lead to pain, loss of teeth, poor overall health and a shorter life expectancy. So that’s one story; the one we hear from dentists. Should we believe it? I think so. The research is conclusive.
But another group, the health care insurance system, tells us a different story. They say, well, it’s really not that important. How do we know that? Because the health care coverage they offer often does not cover dental. It’s treated as an extra, an add-on, instead of a basic need that has to be covered. To do that would be too expensive, we’re told. It’s the old “bottom line” story. And dental coverage is just one example of what isn’t covered, what’s neglected and what’s not considered important or important enough. Tell that to the people who need it and can’t afford it.
Here’s another story. It’s about the Green Mountain Care Board. This committee was created by the Vermont Legislature in 2011. We’re told (from its website), “They are charged with ensuring that changes in the health system improve quality while stabilizing costs.” That’s its mission. Yet when the Vermont Workers’ Center invited members of the care board to come to a health care community meeting in St. Johnsbury in January so they could hear from Vermonters about the quality of their health care and their health care plans, they chose not to come. And, yes, they got the invitation well ahead of time.
So what’s the story there? What are we supposed to believe about the Green Mountain Care Board? Are they listening to us or not?
So what do we do now? We have a choice. We can sit back and keep listening to what we’re told. Maybe we can even figure out which stories are true and which aren’t. Or we can be active and write the story the way we want it to be.
How? The same way people fought for workers’ rights, racial justice, peace and environmental causes. They spoke up, they organized, and they took action. This has already happened to some extent with health care. The fact that the concept that health care is a human right is now recognized by so many Vermonters, including members of the state Legislature and Gov. Shumlin, is because people, with the help of the Vermont Workers’ Center, organized themselves and pushed for it.
The fact that the state Legislature is now considering a bill to require workers to have paid sick days to take care of themselves and their sick children is because people signed petitions, spoke up and organized. To keep moving forward toward true universal health care for all Vermonters, we need to keep doing the same thing.
How can you join the effort? Call your legislator, write letters to editors, talk to friends, and come to community meetings. The Vermont Workers’ Center would like nothing better than to have more people joining the effort. You can contact it at www.workerscenter.org. Together we can help write the story. No, it won’t end “and they lived happily ever after.” But if everyone has good health care and better health, we’ll all be a bit closer.
David Martin lives in Lyndonville. He taught elementary school for many years in St. Johnsbury and has published a number of picture books for children.
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