To the Editor:

In the 1970s I lived and worked in England, and was on the National Health System. I had good care and never had to worry about whether I would be able to afford it. I am thrilled that Vermont is moving in the direction of universal health care and wish it could happen sooner than 2017.

Meanwhile, disturbing changes are afoot for participants in VHAP and Catamount, which will have to shut down at the end of 2013. This is driven by the federal Affordable Care Act, which is hardly the government takeover of health care that opponents claim. It is still an insurance-based system, and will not fully fund insurance for all current VHAP and Catamount participants.

Governor Shumlin has proposed state funds to make up some of the difference, but at this point there is still a gap between current costs to the patient and projected costs under the exchange, which starts in 2014.

As a former participant in VHAP and Catamount, I am concerned about this rate increase. Though these programs are band-aids on a broken system, I received good coverage under them at a rate I could afford. I was relieved that this was available when I needed it. It is unconscionable that people who currently have coverage stand to lose it. That is not how universal health care is supposed to work.

These cuts to VHAP and Catamount do not fulfill Act 48's commitment to creating a health care system that recognizes the human right to health care. As we move forward towards a universal health care system, we should not be taking any steps back by cutting funding to VHAP and Catamount and balancing any budget shortfalls on the backs of poor and middle class people. Instead, we must be looking to raise revenue in an equitable way so that everyone has access to health care when it is needed.

Ellen Schwartz Brattleboro