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Calling for Single-Payer Health Care in Massachusetts

Access to health care is a basic human right but is not treated that way.  Even with the passage of the Federal Governments ACA, Affordable Care Act, we remain a country where the economics of health care is based on the profit motive.  Our neighbor, the state of Vermont, has passed a single-payer system, Green Mountain Care.   Likewise, Massachusetts has the opportunity to pass a single-payor system via HB 2127.  We call on our legislators to respond appropriately.

MassCare for Single PayerUniversal health care under a single-payer system is often referred to as “Medicare for All.”  Single-payer systems are generally regarded as a way to reduce unnecessary administrative costs and produce significant cost savings – enough to provide universal care.

Massachusetts Health Care Trust Bill (HB 2127), if signed into law, would establish a single-payer system in Massachusetts and is supported by 51 state legislators.  Please note:  This article does not examine the details of HB 2127. 

MassCare.org, the "Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care" has more information about HB 2127.

  • Many believe that access to health care is a basic human right
  • Health care is an economic issue for both patients and providers
  •     Patients pay too much
  •     Health care is not treated as a resource
  •     If patients demand, then providers respond and everyone pays inappropriately
  • Health care is a survival issue for business owners and employees
  •     Employees stay on jobs just to get benefits
  •     Employers are burdened with undue health care costs instead of being able to use money for innovation
  •     Employees without health insurance need access to health care
  • Municipal organizations face the same burdens and are funded by tax-payer dollars
  • Other issues not often discussed in universal health care but which MUST be included are the following:
  •         Dental coverage
  •         Mental (behavioral) health
  •         Substance abuse
Profit Motive Inappropriate for Health Care

Our society is making health care decisions primarily based on the profit motive.  While the profit motive is appropriate for many / most areas of our economy, some economic structures, when forced to fit into a for-profit format, lead to decisions which are just simply wrong.  Health care is one of those but the for-profit decisions and behavior in other related areas are impacting the cost of health care.  Examples include the following:
  • Health care procedures are carried out because they can be billed, not because they are appropriate.
  • Health insurance executives' high income is administrative only and does not promote better health coverage, yet we pay
  • Agri-business promotes unhealthy life-styles, in fact, addictive styles (sugar addiction) while the "insurers" are faced with the burden of handling the result of the addiction (obesity, diabetes and heart disease).
  • Big-pharma is allowed to stop producing less expensive drugs in favor of more expensive ones.  Alternatively, they hold onto patents for many years before generics are allowed to kick in.
  • Our penal system, which is moving in the direction of privatization, makes a huge demand on public financing but much of the growing burden of incarceration stems from poor educational systems, poor attention to substance abuse and inadequate emphasis on mental health.
  • Corporations are allowed to pollute with impunity while society is burdened with treating the illnesses that result.
In other words, we as a society are having to respond symptomatically to ramifications of many for-profit systems, the long-term effects of which become our burden to bear and pay for.  All of this greatly influences the cost of health care. 

The old adage, "the air is free," is the attitude we tolerate.  Re-examining holistically how all of us operate is an important step to getting health care costs under control.

An interesting case study is our neighbor, the state of Vermont, which has passed though not fully implemented a single-payer system.

Vermont Single-Payer

Posted: February 9, 2014     Nancy J Conrad

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