"It's Called Insurance Insecurity, and It's Traumatic"

The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in support of H.1194/S.683 

In December 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. Before I even had a treatment plan, and was in still shock at hearing my diagnosis, I met with the Financial Office to find out what my coinsurance and cap was for my out-of-pocket payments. This insurance-centric reality followed every step of my treatment plan.  

Cancer taught me to live every day and be grateful but it taught me other things as well.  Catastrophically ill patients and those with chronic illnesses often lose their life savings to the current medical system. The wicked good Cadillac health insurance I had from my ex-husband did not cover the whole thing. I was expected to pay 10% as coinsurance. Some plans call for the patient to pay 30% of the costs of their treatment.  For 2019 the capped amount is $7,900 for an individual and $15,800 for a family. This amount is before copays, medications, and many other needed procedures that patients carry the bill for in their treatment. I found out very quickly that people go bankrupt because they get sick. Many lose their house after 4 or 5 years as they can never make up for lost income and what they had to pay into the system.

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Let's Start Treating Health Care as a Right

The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing on Tuesday, June 11, 2019.

Chairwoman Friedman, Chairwoman Benson, and members of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing:

Thank you for holding this hearing today. My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts. Progressive Massachusetts is a statewide grassroots advocacy organization devoted to shared prosperity, racial and social justice, good government and strong democracy, and environmental protection and sustainable infrastructure.

Medicare for All is a quintessential part of shared prosperity, and we are proud to support S.683 / H.1194: An Act establishing Medicare for All in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has a storied role in the history of the fight for universal health care in the US. Our former senator Ted Kennedy was a longtime champion of single payer, and our 2006 health care reform law was a model for the Affordable Care Act nationally.

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Withdrawal: Never an Effective Strategy

If we actually had mandatory sex ed in MA, everyone would know that withdrawal is not effective. As it stands, it remains one of the most popular strategies in the Massachusetts Legislature. Legislators file amendments only to withdraw them without discussion or debate.

If you were paying attention to the Senate budget debate last week or the House budget debate last month (You probably weren’t! There’s a lot going on!), then you may have noticed such a lack of robust debate or contentious votes.

Of the 36 recorded votes taken by the State Senate, 25 were unanimous. Most others just had one or two dissenting votes. Hardly controversial stuff.

Of the 15 recorded votes taken by the House, 10 were unanimous, and another 3 just had one dissenting vote.

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We Can't Keep Shortchanging Our Future

Yesterday, US News & World Report ranked Massachusetts #1 in the country in education. That's all well and good, but that hides more than it reveals.

That's because we have one of the most unequal education systems in the country: the children in Lawrence and Brockton are not getting the same quality of education as students in Dover and Weston.

The question is not whether we are doing more than other states but whether we are doing as much as we need to--and as much as our students deserve.

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MA legislators just voted again to disenfranchise people in prison. And the vote wasn't even public.


MAY 3, 2019 Joint statement from Act on Mass, Progressive Massachusetts, and the Emancipation Initiative

Mass. legislature rejects voting rights for the incarcerated

As the national discourse around the question of restoring voting rights for those incarcerated heated up, the Massachusetts legislature also quietly took up the issue.  The Joint Committee on Election Laws voted on Thursday April 25th to reject a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for the incarcerated.

Incarcerated people in Massachusetts weren’t always disenfranchised, and the 1974 Supreme Judicial Court case Evers v. Davoren ruled that citizens incarcerated in Massachusetts must be given equal access to absentee ballots to vote.  It wasn’t until 2001 that Massachusetts disenfranchised those incarcerated for felonies, after the Massachusetts legislature initiated a process to amend the State Constitution to take away their voting rights while in prison. The process required two votes of the legislature before it could advance to a ballot question. A Republican filed the original bill, but Democrats were more than happy to go along with it judging by the overwhelming vote counts in favor: the first vote in 1998 was 155-34, and the second vote in 2000 was 144-45.

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"It is far past time for us to stop shortchanging our students."

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Higher Education.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chairwoman Gobi, Chairman Roy, and Members of the Joint Higher Education Committee,

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide multi-issue grassroots organization committed to fighting for social justice and progressive policy. Since our founding, treating education as a public good and funding it as such has been central to our mission.

As such, we strongly support S.744 / H.1221, An Act to guarantee debt-free public higher education, and S.741, An Act committing to higher education the resources to Insure a strong and healthy public higher education system (or CHERISH), and urge you to report them out favorably.

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Whose Side Is Your State Rep On?

Massachusetts House votes on its budget, the House will have an opportunity to decide what type of state Massachusetts is.

Are we a state that invests in our future and stands up to the bigotry of the Trump administration, or are we fine with crumbling infrastructure, underfunded schools, and complicity in a racist mass deportation agenda?


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Happy Tax Day! Your Legislators Have an Opportunity to Make a Fairer Tax Code.

TL;DR: Do you believe in funding our schools, our infrastructure, and all of the services that make our commonwealth strong at the levels we deserve? Of course you do. So please call your state rep in support of Amendment #1357 (Long-Term Capital Gains) to the budget, which would raise the capital gains tax to provide much-needed additional revenue.

Year after year, as legislators craft the latest budget, tough decisions have to be made. A big part of the reason for these tough decisions is that Massachusetts lacks the revenue to fund things, like good schools and reliable transportation, that are most important to our communities. But not having sufficient revenue isn’t inevitable; it’s a choice.

The Fair Share Amendment, which routinely polled at around 80%, was kicked off the 2018 ballot after a lawsuit from well-funded business groups. The Legislature has the opportunity to advance it to the 2022 ballot via a Constitutional Convention next month. But we can’t afford to wait another four years to invest in our Commonwealth.


The legislature can act RIGHT NOW to begin building the fairer tax structure that Massachusetts voters want.

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Time to End a Shameful History of Disenfranchisement

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Election Laws Committee.


Chairman Finegold, Chairman Lawn, and Members of the Joint Election Laws Committee,

As an organization committed to strengthening our democracy and promoting racial and social justice in our Commonwealth, Progressive Massachusetts strongly supports S.12, a proposal for a legislative amendment to the Constitution relative to voting rights and urges swift action.

In recent years, states around the US have started to realize that the decades-long phenomenon of mass incarceration was a moral, economic, and public safety failure. It destroyed communities, strained budgets, and made us no safer.

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"All It Took Was a Look at the Playground"

The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Education on Friday, March 22, 2019.

We are writing in support of the Promise Act. As retired special educators who also consulted with districts and families, we strongly support an end to the tiered educational system that exists in Massachusetts.

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