Dozens of supporters of single-payer health care converged on the Statehouse Thursday to voice their anger at Gov. Peter Shumlin's announcement a day earlier that he was scrapping his push for such a program, while critics voiced dismay that the governor pushed the plan as far as he did.
"Time and again I'm forced to choose whether to meet my medical needs or pay other bills," Randolph resident Stauch Blaise told fellow single payer supporters. "Just last week I had to forgo care for my foot because of my deductible and co-pays. Governor Shumlin has burned all of us by bailing on universal health care, and now it's time for the legislature to assume leadership and follow through with Act 48."
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Act 48 was the 2011 law signed by Shumlin that set the state on a path toward a universal, publicly-funded health care system. On Wednesday, Shumlin said extensive studies by his administration had shown that the Vermont economy would not withstand the 11.5 percent business payroll tax and a variable income tax up to 9.5 percent that would be needed to pay for a quality system.
The decision was welcomed by longtime critics of the plan.
The state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business issued a statement saying, "Governor Shumlin spent years hopeful that the over $2 billion price tag would miraculously be taken care of but small business stood steady in the storm, insisting it would be impossible to fund a single payer health care system."
It called for repeal of the 2011 law.
Demonstrators gathered first on the Statehouse steps and then went indoors to the doorway of the office Shumlin uses mainly during the legislative session. It was closed. Afterward, they marched through downtown Montpelier to a meeting of the Green Mountain Care Board, the panel that has overseen Vermont's efforts to revamp its health care system.
The tone of the demonstration was angry, with demonstrators chanting, "Which side are you on, Shumlin?"