PEACHAM, Vt., August 24 – In one of the largest Northeast Kingdom political meetings in recent years, some 600 people – most of them supporting major health care reform – crowded into a Congregational church yesterday in this small Northeast Kingdom community for a town meeting hosted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Saying public interest in the issue was “remarkable,” Sanders told the audience that out of the more than 400 town meetings he has held since elected to Congress he had “never quite seen the kind of turnout at a small town like Peacham.”
The senator, at the beginning of the meeting, spoke to a crowd that spilled into the churchyard after people had packed the pews and filled the church basement.
While the questioners at the third town meeting hosted by Sanders this month voiced a variety of opinions, most of those who asked questions during the two-hour session supported proposals to overhaul health care and reform the way insurance coverage is provided.
“We live in a nation in which 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured. Sixty million Americans do not have access to a doctor on a regular basis. And, according to the Institute of Medicine, some 18,000 Americans die every single year because they get to the doctor too late. Meanwhile, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other country and some one million Americans this year will go bankrupt because of medically related bills,” Sanders said.
Some in the audience, like those at town meetings earlier in Rutland and Arlington, carried signs supporting a single-payer system, like Medicare for all Americans. Many waved red-and-white placards calling health care a human right.
Sanders said health care reform is needed “not just because of the needs of individual people, but for the sake of our entire economy. If we don’t get a handle on soaring health care costs, whatever you are paying today or whatever your employer is paying today will likely be doubled in 10 years and millions of Americans will be paying 50 percent of their income on health care.
“That can’t happen. The country cannot survive economically, and millions of Americans will not make it economically if we don’t deal with this issue.”
Photographs from the event are available here.