Public Assets Institute > Blog > What we did on our Summer Speaking Tour

What we did on our Summer Speaking Tour

For each of the past five summers, Public Assets’ Jack Hoffman and Paul Cillo have spent a day in each of five Vermont communities speaking to Rotary Clubs, discussing school budgets and taxes with local elected officials and legislators, meeting with area newspaper editors, and visiting with other community leaders. This year’s tour took us to Essex, Newport, Rutland, St. Albans, and, ending in late September, Woodstock.

Each year we choose a topic for the Rotary presentation. This year’s was health care reform. The message was that Vermont has two serious health care system problems that make reform critical to the state’s future: Cost increases at nearly double the rate of Vermont’s economic growth are unsustainable. And more than 200,000 Vermonters are uninsured or underinsured.

We reminded listeners that state analysts know what we pay for health care in Vermont—we’re paying it now— and they know what that cost is likely to be in the future without reform.  We called on Vermonters to put aside ideology and help create a system that makes sense for the state, bringing us, as we said, more “in line with other developed countries in the world, where costs are lower, people are generally healthier, services are universally available, and people don’t face the prospect of financial ruin if they happen to get sick or fall down the stairs.”

The summer tour has two purposes (in addition to getting us out of the office). We want to bring what we’ve learned directly to Vermonters—the data Public Assets is constantly gathering, largely from state and federal government sources, about Vermont’s budgets, taxes, and economy and the analyses we do to pull meaning from these raw facts. Good data are essential for good policy, and if Vermonters are going to participate knowledgably in democracy—and weigh in on that policy—they need those facts in understandable form. That’s what we provide, as we talk about what the data mean to Vermonters’ lives.

But the other purpose of our tours is for us to hear what’s on Vermonters’ minds, to get feedback on our analysis of state fiscal policy, and just to see what’s going on in Vermont’s cities and towns.

Walking the sidewalks or driving the streets, having coffee in a local café, seeing the homes and businesses, visiting the library, and talking with people who live and work in Vermont communities gives us an important opportunity to understand and engage with Vermonters on their home turf about issues that matter to them.

We came away from this summer’s tour with a sense of broad popular agreement that reform is needed to address excessive health care cost increases and make sure everyone can access services. People we spoke with were more receptive to the idea of a single-payer health care system than we had expected—although, understandably, they have many questions about how it would work.

This is encouraging. Because if we’re going to reach agreement on health care reform, we need citizens to be open to solutions that can make our complex health care system work for all Vermonters.

Posted by Sarah Lyons on October 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

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