Towns eye single-payer health care plan

For the Gazette
Published: 4/28/2017 10:55:54 PM

Voters in Leverett, Colrain and Shelburne will get to consider a single-payer health insurance plan, just as Deerfield voters did at their town meeting Monday night, to back state “Improved Medicare for All” legislation.

Even as the Trump administration vows to rescind the Affordable Care Act, Deerfield Town Meeting voters passed a resolution promoted by Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution.

The resolution endorses the state House and Senate proposals — House 2987 and Senate 619 — to establish a Massachusetts Health Care Trust to “guarantee health care access to all residents without regard to financial or employment status, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, previous health problems or geographic location.”

The “comprehensive, affordable” and universal coverage would be “continuous, without the current need for repeated re­enrollments or changes when employers choose new plans and residents change jobs.”

Under the proposed legislation filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and Rep. Denise Garlick, D-Needham, employer and employee premium payments to private insurers would be replaced with an employer and employee payroll tax of 10 percent — with 7.5 percent paid by the employer and 2.5 percent paid by the employee, according to a fact sheet provided by Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution.

The legislation was co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru; Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton; Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, and Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield,

Before the vote, Deerfield voters were presented with information from a study by University of Massachusetts economics professor Gerald Friedman.

The study showed that in the last budget year, the town would save nearly $200,000 of its $780,000 health-care premium for employees, that full-time town workers would save more than $200,000 in what they paid in total health premiums, and part-time staff members would save a total of nearly $35,500 in what they paid for premiums.

According to State House New Service, Eldridge called the 21 co-sponsors signed onto his bill this session “the largest we’ve had in about six years.”

“I certainly am a strong supporter of maintaining and protecting the ACA at the federal level, but clearly there are discussions by mostly Republicans in Congress about repealing it and changing it,” he said. “And I think it’s an interesting opportunity, interesting time, for single-payer advocates like myself because if you did see changes at the federal level, I think there would be an opportunity to advocate for single-payer health care more strongly at the state level.”

Eldridge added, “I think people are realizing that as much as the ACA had protections around pre-existing medical conditions, that it did provide expanded Medicaid, that for a lot of sort of working-class, middle-class families, they probably saw their premiums go up significantly because the ACA wasn’t really designed to reduce health care costs, it was really designed to cover more people. So if we’re looking to do both in an environment where federal funding could be cut to Massachusetts or other aspects of the ACA, is it time for Massachusetts to take the next step?”

Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed a slate of health insurance market reforms.

His $40.5 billion fiscal 2018 budget includes an annual assessment on certain employers without at least 80 percent of their workers covered by employer-sponsored health care, rate growth caps for health care providers, a five-year moratorium on new coverage mandates and additional consumer transparency efforts aimed at helping patients understand the cost of care.

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