BELLOWS FALLS — More than 70 people marched in Bellows Falls on Oct. 3, demanding Governor Scott expand Medicaid to all Vermont residents and cut the state’s contract with OneCare Vermont.
Organized by the Vermont Workers’ Center, the march followed demonstrations the previous Friday evening in Barre, Burlington, and St. Johnsbury as part of a national week of “Medicaid Marches” in 13 states coordinated by the Nonviolent Medicaid Army.
Marchers met at the Rockingham Health Center in Bellows Falls. Brattleboro resident Grace Beninson explained that with the Springfield hospital bankruptcy proceedings, “We’re concerned they might decide to close [the health center], and that’s why we decided to start this action here.”
Beninson continued, “I thought I had a pretty good life, until one morning I got up to go to work and I had a stroke.
Of course, when you have a healthc are emergency you pretty much lose everything unless you have a lot of money to back you up. I lost my house, I lost my job, and my whole way of life. I had a $5,000 a year deductible and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it turns out I had undiagnosed diabetes for three years and that’s what caused the stroke.
“I made up my mind that I will never stop fighting to have health care for everybody because we need it so much — if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”
Bellows Falls resident Rhonda Holland spoke at a rally following the march.
“I’ve been epileptic since I’ve been 13. In 2006, I had surgery to insert a Vagus Nerve Stimulator, which cuts down my seizures and has opened my world to where I’ve got a life. If Medicaid hadn’t paid for this, I’d still be staying home laying in bed every afternoon. We need to make sure there’s no cuts in Medicaid and everybody can get the care that they need.”
J.R. Layne, a recovery coach in Springfield and Bellows Falls, also spoke at the rally.
“I see it every day,” said Layne. “An individual is ready to get the help they need but they can’t get into treatment because they don’t have Medicaid. It’s disgraceful.
And what ends up happening is they end up leaving because their disease calls them, they have to get the medicine they think they need, and that’s usually their drug of choice and that window of opportunity shrinks and it closes and they don’t get the treatment they need because they don’t have insurance.”