Easthampton council backs Medicare for All resolution

  • Easthampton Municipal Building  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2019 4:07:53 PM

EASTHAMPTON – In a further sign of support for the single-payer health care movement, the Easthampton City Council has passed a resolution supporting the passage of Medicare for All in the commonwealth.

The resolution passed unanimously 8-0 with one abstention on Wednesday and calls on the city’s representatives on Beacon Hill to back the legislation entitled An Act Establishing Medicare for All, S.683 in the Senate and H.1194, in the House while expressing the council’s support for it.

City Councilor Peg Conniff abstained from the vote because she works for a health insurance company and expressed concern about a potential conflict of interest.

The bill would establish a single-payer health care system in the commonwealth, which would provide access to health care without co-pays and also cover areas such as hearing aids and nursing home care.

Although a resolution is not binding legislation, it does represent the will of the council. The resolution was introduced by City Councilor Owen Zaret and crafted with input from the Easthampton Hub of Western Massachusetts Medicare for All, a single-payer healthcare advocacy organization. Zaret also consulted with local state legislators about the intent of the bill.

“Single Payer in Mass. would be a big win for municipalities,” said Deborah Levenson,  co-convener of Western Massachusetts Medicare for All, in a statement. “We estimated that Easthampton would have saved millions of dollars last year under the single-payer bill.  We expect that many more cities and towns will pass similar resolutions, sending a strong message to the Legislature.” 

A number of people spoke during the council’s public comment time in favor of the resolution,  including state Rep. Dan Carey, D-Easthampton.

“It’s easy for me to support it. And it’s a great idea,” said Carey, a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All bill in the Legislature.

Carey also pointed to the 2018 vote on a nonbinding ballot question by Easthampton voters on Medicare for All. Seventy percent of voters backed the question, according to numbers provided by the Easthampton city clerk’s office. 

City Councilor Thomas Peake noted that in the election where Easthampton backed Medicare for All, the city also voted for Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican. 

“This isn’t just a fringe left thing,” Peake said. 

Two revisions were made to the resolution before it passed, one of which removed the specific figure for how much Medicare for All would have saved the city in fiscal year 2019 and another that expressed the council’s support for a system that provides a level of care at least equal to the health care plan currently used by Easthampton’s public employees and retirees.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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