Katie Robbins is the Assistant National Coordinator of Healthcare-NOW! and a firm believer that health care is a human right that must be delivered to all people without financial barriers
After a sobering loss for Democrats in the special election held to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, probing exit polls about health reform show that the win of Republican Scott Brown who pledged to cast the vote that would kill national health reform, didn’t come from people who thought the national legislation was going too far, but that it wasn’t going far enough. Among Brown voters, 36 percent thought it didn't go far enough. Among voters who stayed home and opposed health care, a full 53 percent said they opposed the Senate bill because it didn't go far enough.
The people in the commonwealth of Massachusetts have been living for three years with the same reform the national legislation is modeled after…and it isn’t working. Even though more people have insurance through the mandate and subsidies for private plans, it fails to provide universal access to health care. In addition, health costs continue to sky rocket, as it does little to guarantee that people can clear the hurdles of copays and deductibles in order to actually access health care when they need it.
A recent article from the Massachusetts state treasurer, Timothy P. Cahill, cites a recent study prepared by Drs. Rachel Nardin, David Himmelstein, and Steffie Woolhandler of Harvard Medical School showing that the least expensive plan available to a middle-income, 56-year-old individual costs $4,872 in annual premiums. That does not include a $2,000 deductible if the person actually gets sick, or the 20 percent of the person’s medical costs — up to $3,000 a year — he or she is required to pay, meaning that an individual’s total annual bill for health care could reach $9,872.
Cahill continues, “Rather than providing a solution, the Massachusetts health care laws have only created more problems, both on the state’s balance sheet and in struggling households across the state. Our residents deserve accessible, affordable health care that will not jeopardize the Commonwealth’s fiscal health, goals we cannot attain under the current system.”
To really understand the message coming from Massachusetts, let’s take a look back at the historic election in November 2008, two years after “health reform” was implemented in the state when voters turned out in record numbers to support the election of now President Obama and his message of change. A little highlighted ballot initiative at the time reveals an insight into popular opinion on the state’s health plan. In all ten legislative districts in the commonwealth, local ballot initiatives supporting single payer and opposing individual mandates passed by landslide margins. With almost all precincts tallied, roughly 73 percent of 181,000 voters in the ten districts voted YES to the following:
“Should the representative from this district be instructed to support legislation creating a cost-effective single payer health insurance system that is available to all residents, and oppose laws penalizing those who fail to obtain health insurance?”
The measure passed with margins ranging from 65 to 82 percent in support of single-payer health care.
Unfortunately, the clear support for single-payer in Massachusetts and around the country falls on deaf ears of the current administration. President Obama, in his recent remarks in the State of the Union address, opened the door for further discussion on the health care debate. He said, “If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know.”
The growing movement for universal and improved Medicare has been trying to “let him know” for some time now, and will continue to do so. Drs. Margaret Flowers and Carol Paris were recently arrested for responding to the President’s call for better ideas on how to reform the health care system. Dr. Flowers left practice as a pediatrician because she was unable to provide quality care in this system. They are now urging everyone to join them in letting President Obama know about Medicare for All.
We must find strength and power in our unified demand for improved Medicare for all. Together, let’s raise our voices and let the President know that Medicare for all, a single-payer national health care plan, will meet his goals of a health plan that will save billions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, cover everyone, strengthen Medicare, and guarantee free choice of doctor and hospital in access of quality, comprehensive health care with no financial barriers.
Please join Drs. Flowers and Paris, and the growing movement of patients, nurses, and physicians in telling President Obama that we know of a better plan for the nation than the failure in Massachusetts – Medicare 2.0 - improved Medicare for everyone.
We've got to let him know.
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