8/16/09-by Bridgette LaVictoire On 15 August, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a town hall meeting to discuss healthcare reform. Vermont is one of the few states in the Union to have a public option healthcare system. Vermont’s public health care option is called Catamount, and it is for the uninsured working. For those without a job but do not qualify for Medicare there is the Vermont Healthcare Access Program or VHAP. The number of people who attended a town hall meeting is estimated at around 500. Two hundred of those were allowed into the Unitarian church on West Street in downtown Rutland, Vermont. The number of people who attended forced Sen. Sanders to alter his initial plans. Originally, Sen. Sanders was supposed to only take questions from inside the church; however, he took questions from both inside and outside the church. He took questions both sides of the debate, or more accurately from the three sides of the debate. Vermont has a strong contingent of supporters for a single payer plan.
Sen. Sanders answered questions from the very small group of people who are opposed to any healthcare reform. This does not, however, represent everyone who was upset with President Obama on the issue of healthcare. Many of those who were opposed President Obama’s healthcare reform package were vocally opposed to the lack of a single payer plan, or were heavily concerned about a lack of a public option given the noise from several Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans; especially given the fact that the Republicans are unlikely to vote for any healthcare reform package no matter what it is.
The disruptions common in most town hall meetings did not occur at the one in Rutland. This was largely due to the fact that there was a very paltry showing of those rabble-rousers and the fact that it is incredibly difficult to drown out Sen. Sanders. His clear loud New York accent could likely be heard in West Rutland, several miles away. This was the first of three town hall meetings being held by Vermont’s junior senator, and one of only two Independent Senators in Congress today. Additionally, the occasion was when a small group on the sidewalk behind the crowd attempted to drown out Sen. Sanders the crowd formed something of a human wall around them, and in so doing reminding them that they were the minority of the opinion that a town hall meeting. However, the presence of several security guards most of them in suits likely contributed to the lack of rowdiness. Still, it did not lead to the silencing of their opinion since many of them were allowed to ask questions.
Due to the lack of ability to answer all of the questions they could have been asked Sen. Sanders had his staff pass around carts that people could use to ask questions that he would e-mail or mail the answers to them. The largest point that Sen. Sanders had to make was that there has been no bill either fully written or voted upon. Currently the bill is being worked upon in the five different committees three of those are in the House and two in the Senate.
Pictures Provided By Lee L.