Medicare for All? PM Director Ben Wright in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in Boston Globe South  - March 21, 2015. 

Should Massachusetts adopt a single-payer healthcare system? 


By Ben Wright, director of Progressive Massachusetts. Ben has worked on electoral and issue campaigns on the South Shore, including, updating the bottle bill and raising the minimum wage.

Massachusetts should adopt a single payer health care system to improve individual health outcomes, expand care to everyone, and reduce costs for both individuals and the government.

In 2012, per capita health care spending was $8,233, more than 2.5 times higher than most developed nations. However, we have proportionately fewer physicians and hospital beds, and our life expectancy increases since 1960 are below those of other developed nations, according to a PBS news report.

We have a huge spending problem, and single payer is the simplest solution. With so many other priorities – including education, transportation and infrastructure -- we should be implementing solutions that will reduce costs to society and improve care.

Despite Massachusetts’ nation leading health care reform in 2006, four percent of Massachusetts residents remained without health care in 2013. This leads to unnecessary deaths and illnesses, and strains our emergency medical services when people neglect routine care. 

Beyond just those who don’t have any health insurance, the Commonwealth Fund estimates that over half a million Massachusetts residents are under-insured, meaning they devote a large share of their income to cover costs like copayments and deductibles, preventing them from seeking care.

A single payer system would guarantee that everyone in Massachusetts is covered. Employer-based health insurance is exceptionally inefficient. And even for low-income or unemployed individuals who could qualify for free or reduced cost care, the administrative barriers to enrolling in that care are prohibitive.

We spend too much on overhead, administration, and paper work. Studies commissioned by the Massachusetts Medical Society and the state legislature “found that the administrative savings under single payer would be enough to cover all of the uninsured, eliminate all co-pays and deductibles, and upgrade coverage for Medicare enrollees,” according to Physicians for a National Health Program. The group has compiled dozens of studies demonstrating that a single payer system adopted federally would save billions of dollars every year for consumers and governments.

Right now, there are two bills that would move Massachusetts towards a single payer system, with state Representatives Tackey Chan of Quincy and Paul McMurtry of Dedham among the co-sponsors. Their colleagues on Beacon Hill should adopt the legislation swiftly so we can save money for other priorities and improve the health of all of us.

Excerpted from the Boston Globe; see original article for opposing viewpoint. 



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