Columnist Sara Weinberger: Mass. Medicare for All is a prize worth the fight

  • In this April 10, 2019 file photo, a sign is shown during a news conference to reintroduce "Medicare for All" legislation, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

Published: 10/20/2019 3:00:09 PM

More than two years ago, when I convened the first meeting of the Easthampton Hub of Western Mass. Medicare for All, I told those present that passing a Medicare for All bill in Massachusetts was going to be an uphill battle.

I believed we could win, but we had to commit to a long-term campaign. Since then, our dedicated group of activists has kept our eyes on the prize. Medicare for All, or single payer health care as it’s sometimes referred to, would provide affordable, comprehensive and quality universal health care for the residents of Massachusetts, a prize worth fighting for.

Our reasons for joining the movement were varied. Some members had experienced the benefits of living in countries with national health care. Others shared stories about difficulties accessing providers, and the frustrations of dealing with insurance companies, which sometimes refused to consent to critical procedures. Many of us were grateful to be recipients of Medicare, but we also recognized its shortcomings.

The bill in the Massachusetts Legislature, “An Act Establishing Medicare for All in Mass.,” goes far beyond the Medicare coverage that we receive, in terms of benefits and affordability. Massachusetts Medicare for All would provide coverage for vision and dental care, as well as mental health, which many insurance policies ignore. Coverage is universal, regardless of age or employment status.

Western Massachusetts is enthusiastic about Massachusetts Medicare for All. Our hub joined with other hubs in western Mass. last year to collect signatures for a non-binding ballot resolution giving voters the opportunity to weigh-in on whether or not to instruct their legislators to pass the Medicare for All Bill. Last November, in the Massachusetts cities and towns where the resolution appeared, an average of 76% of voters voted yes to Medicare for All!

Almost a year later, there is a huge divide between voter enthusiasm and the will of lawmakers to get this bill out of committee and to move it closer to passage. We are also being subjected to the uninformed and divisive ideas of the Democratic presidential candidates who oppose a national Medicare for All bill.

The naysayers try to convince us “Medicare for All” can’t work:

■“They will take away your health care!”

The people I know view health insurance coverage as essential to getting health care. They pay huge premiums, copays and deductibles for plans that often don’t cover what is needed, especially in the event of a major illness. If you want to assess satisfaction with health insurance plans, just ask the customer service representatives who spend their days listening to the concerns of frustrated and desperate consumers. People are invested in keeping their health care providers, not their insurance companies.

Massachusetts Medicare for All will let you keep your health care providers. What the plan will remove are the hours that those doctors and nurses spend on the phone with insurance companies, trying to figure out what patients’ plans entitle them to.

■“We only support adding a Medicare option, allowing consumers to choose their plans.”

The mantra about a Medicare for All option is another sham. The affordability and breadth of coverage provided by Massachusetts Medicare for All is possible only with a large and diverse pool of insured people. Giving people a menu of plans that includes a private option will result in higher premiums and less power to negotiate pharmaceutical prices.

■“Medicare for All is socialism!”

Those who fear that Medicare for All is a socialist conspiracy, should refuse Medicare, stop sending their children to public schools, and avoid using the post office. These are all examples of socialism at work in the U.S.A.!

■“Union workers will be forced to give up their Cadillac insurance plans!”

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO recently passed a resolution refusing to endorse a presidential candidate unless they support Medicare for All.

■“Medicare for All will increase taxes!”

It’s time to stop vilifying the word “tax.” The payroll tax and tax on unearned income of wealthy individuals that finances Massachusetts Medicare for All will provide more secure and comprehensive care at a lower price for most people. Premiums, copays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses will be a thing of the past.

The Easthampton Hub is part of Western Mass. Medicare for All, a group of dedicated volunteers committed to realizing the will of voters to make Massachusetts the first state to provide its residents with Medicare for All. On Nov. 6, our hub will ask the Easthampton City Council to pass a resolution instructing our legislators to give the people of the commonwealth the health insurance everyone deserves.

If you believe that health care policy should not be dictated by insurance companies and big pharma lobbyists, show up at Easthampton City Hall at 6 p.m. on Nov 6. Your presence will send a strong message of support that will ultimately be heard in the State House.

For more information: www.wmMedicareforall.org - Facebook: WMM4A.

Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is a professor emerita of social work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at columnists@gazettenet.com.




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