Perhaps the most important phrase in the Vermont Health Reform Law is "universal access and coverage." It means that all Vermonters have the right to an umbrella of health protection without barriers. This is a vital principle. As the legislature now considers the financing of this reform, it must not violate this core idea.

Yet some legislators are proposing "cost-sharing" schemes which require patients to pay money upfront for their care. These go by various names -- copay, deductible, coinsurance, out of pocket maximums, but they are all ways of financing health care on the backs of the poor and the sick.

They are actuarial anachronisms, carried over from auto and homeowners insurance, which have no place in health care. They do exactly what the law forbids: Placing barriers between people and their health.

I've seen a mother, young child in her arms, leave a pharmacy empty-handed because she didn't have $54 for the medicine her sick child needed. When cost-sharing discourages access to health care, it actually decreases the wellness of our most vulnerable, putting the lie to the term "universal."

Cost-sharing schemes share another characteristic: They can all be increased. When they are increased, that means the sick pay more for their care. Illnesses and accidents are randomly-occurring events; that's what "premiums" are for. The cost of Vermont's new system needs to be financed through taxation and public funds, not on the backs of the sick and poor.

Tell your legislator.

JOHN RANSOM

Readsboro
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England thanks volunteers

National Volunteer Week is April 6 through 12 and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) would like to thank its 116 volunteers and 22 board members from across Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Their service in 2013 totaled 7,961 hours and aided our staff in providing sexual health services and education to more than 42,000 patients. It is an honor to work alongside these members of our northern New England community who actively and publicly commit their time to ensure all people can make voluntary choices about their health.

The positive effect our volunteers have had can be seen throughout our various organizational departments and from within 12 of our 21 health centers. From filing charts, to speaking to the community about the Affordable Care Act, to warmly greeting patients, to approaching state representatives about reproductive health issues, to writing thank you notes to our donors, to planning community outreach events, to assisting with daily operations in our administrative offices -- each and every volunteer helps make it possible to provide outstanding customer service, push forward our advocacy efforts, and achieve excellence in all that we do.

On behalf of PPNNE, I thank each and every one of our volunteers for their active support in making this mission a reality.

MEAGAN GALLAGHER

CEO, Planned Parenthood
of Northern New England


Let's talk about gangs in Bennington

The Bloods and the Crips are here. The Bloods flash red bandanas; Crips flash blue bandanas. These gangs are targeting our young kids to sell or use drugs. Gang members commit the following crimes: murder, rape, car theft, armed robbery, burglary; they sell and use guns and knives to intimidate law abiding citizens. Gang members are nothing but punks. If you join a gang, you will end up in jail, or worse: Dead.

LOYAL WESTCOTT

Bennington


Kudos to MAUHS Nordic team

I've never seen anything like this. I've never heard of anything like this. It seems impossible, but once again those MAUHS Nordic Skiiers have broken all records for fundraising for the Bennington Free Clinic. On March 2, the Nordic Ski team raised over $3500 for our Ski for the BFC fundraising event. They are Gold Medal winners.

G. RICHARD DUNDAS, MD

Bennington