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Heading North To Rally In Single-Payer-Land

A recent Vermont rally
A recent Vermont rally

"We're going up there trying to hammer home the message that as students and other health professionals from out of state, we want to see Vermont lead the way, and be able to point to Vermont as an alternative," said Sim Kimmel, a third-year Harvard medical student and one of the buses' organizers. "Some people have gone as far as saying that if Vermont were to have a single-payer system, they would pledge to move there."

Click here for information on the rally, which is slated to include Sen. Bernie Sanders and Governor Peter Shumlin (who was on Radio Boston last week explaining the state's plans.) Here, students explain why the rally is important to them.

Sim says the Boston contingent hopes to gather about 100 students for the 8 a.m. buses from Back Bay and Harvard Square, and they'll be joined by colleagues from around the Northeast at the rally.

"It’s quite clear from the experience in Boston and in Massachusetts and around the country that we're not organizing health care in a reasonable or rational way," he said.

But, I asked, wouldn't a single-payer system — the government-controlled type used in Canada or England — mean that as a future doctor, he'd earn less money?

"That's not exactly clear, but even if it meant that, I would still support it," Sim said. "Physicians spend so much time fighting with insurance companies and filling out paperwork, and so much of the cost of health care is lost in administrative waste. Having a single-payer system would essentially reduce that work so I could spend time doing what I actually want to be doing, which is seeing patients."

For anyone tempted to dismiss the bus-riders as idealistic youth, it's worth noting that support for a single-payer system among American physicians is surprisingly strong, surveys have found. The rally is being organized by Physicians for a National Health Program and the American Medical Students Association.

This program aired on March 17, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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