Coverage For Migrant Workers Sticking Point In Health Care Negotiations
05/02/11 6:06AM By John Dillon
(Host) With the Legislature entering what is supposed to be its final week, a large crowd gathered at the Statehouse yesterday to support a bill that would move the state toward a single payer health care system.
(Crowd) And I want to hear you all scream "Hey, hey what do we say? We say Vermont can lead the way." (Crowd) "Hey, hey what do we say? We say Vermont can lead the way!"
(Host) A conference committee between the House and Senate is ironing out differences in the health care bill.
Among them is a Senate amendment that would bar undocumented workers from being covered by the new Green Mountain Care system.
A farmworker named Javier addressed the crowd. He said he has a condition known as farmer's lung but can't afford the tests to determine how far the disease has spread. Javier's remarks were translated by Brendan O'Neill of the Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project.
(O'Neill) "So if we don't have access to health care, that's how this sickness can become a big problem. To conclude, it seems to me like this proposal is a discriminatory act to exclude us from this health care plan."
(Host) But senators who voted for the amendment have said they were simply trying to make sure the Vermont bill complies with federal law. They say that Vermont needs federal waivers to implement the health care bill and those waivers won't be forthcoming if the state does not follow the federal lead and exclude undocumented workers.