Single-payer health care gains momentum in wake of Tuesday’s election

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    Ruth Wheeler, an election worker at Jackson Street School, hands out "I Voted Stickers," during the Nov. 6, 2018 election.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2018 12:09:00 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Question 4, a nonbinding public policy question that asked legislators to support single-payer health care in Massachusetts, passed overwhelmingly in all six state House of Representative districts in which it was on the ballot. Now, single-payer advocates in Hampshire County plan to use the results to push the policy forward on Beacon Hill.

“I would call that a mandate,” said Lindsay Sabadosa, the 1st Hampshire District representative elect, on the question getting 87 percent of the vote in Northampton, which anchors her district.

With almost all precincts reporting, the question was seeing 76 percent support across all communities, and winning in every community with reported results.

“It was a huge showing,” said Deborah Levenson, co-convenor of Western Mass. Medicare for All.

Western Mass. Medicare for All is responsible for putting Question 4 on the ballot this election cycle. The group uses Medicare for All and single-payer health care interchangeably. The question was on the ballot in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Hampshire districts, the 2nd Berkshire District, the 1st Franklin District and the 5th Hampden District.

Single-payer health care is a health care system where the government serves as the health insurer for all residents, or single payer.

This is not the first time that a public policy question in support of single-payer health care has been voted on in western Massachusetts State House districts. However, it is the first time that such a question has gone before the voters in the City of Holyoke.

Holyoke compromises the entirety of the 5th Hampden District, where the question earned 67.5 percent of the vote, a result Levenson seemed particularly pleased with.

“We think western Mass can really be a leader on this issue across the commonwealth,” she said.

She noted that although state representatives in the districts are on record as being supportive of single-payer, the referendum will, “give them the backing they need.”

Additionally, she said it would strengthen the support of those in the delegation who might not be as strong supporters.

Levenson also pointed to using the question to help form a single-payer caucus in the State House.

“I’m just so excited to know that the district is behind us in that work,” said Sabadosa, who made single-payer a centerpiece of her campaign.

Sabadosa said that single-payer health care will only become a reality with grassroots organizing, and expressed support for the introduction of public policy questions like Question 4 in other legislative districts.

Sabadosa said that with a “good five-year plan,” single-payer health care could come to Massachusetts via the Legislature.

Asked about the idea of implementing single-payer through a statewide binding ballot question, Sabadosa said that such a decision would be made by groups like the progressive coalition Raise Up Massachusetts. However, if such a call was made, she said that she would support it.

“If they decided to do that I am going to be 100 percent behind them,” Sabadosa said.


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