JP legislators should heed voters, support single payer health care

January 21, 2011
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This past November, voters in the two districts covering most of Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and parts of Roslindale overwhelmingly endorsed ballot questions asking their representatives to support “Medicare for All,” or single payer health care reform. The question received 76.1 percent “yes” votes in the 15th Suffolk represented by Jeffrey Sánchez, the highest yes vote of any of the 14 districts in the state where the ballot initiative appeared. The question passed with 68.8 percent yes votes in the 11th Suffolk represented by Liz Malia.

Almost every developed nation guarantees comprehensive health care coverage to residents through public insurance. This not only eliminates medical debt, medical bankruptcy and discrimination in health coverage, but also actually costs much less—providing better health outcomes for a half to a third of what we in this country spend. Our three Boston communities, with their locally owned businesses and medical professionals who commute to the Longwood area, are particularly affected by the unsustainable costs and inhumanity of our broken health care system.

As of last year, none of JP’s legislators were co-sponsors of the state’s single payer legislation, which was endorsed by one-fourth of the legislature. Rep. Malia has been a co-sponsor in years past, but not recently; Rep. Sánchez has not yet co-sponsored the bill. Senator Chang-Díaz has stated her support for single payer reform, but had specific reservations about the bill that organizers have attempted to address in the new legislation filed this year.

Health insurance of some sort has been extended to most of the population in Massachusetts. However, medical bankruptcies in the state have not declined, and for most of our friends, family and neighbors struggling with the health care crisis, it is the cost of care— not the availability of care—that represents the face of this crisis. Decades of attempts to control the costs of health care within the current system—including many years of rate setting and managed care tactics now being considered again—have proven ineffective. Our state’s powerful health care industry lobby makes even these types of measures increasingly difficult to pass.

Reps. Malia and Sánchez and Sen. Chang-Díaz should support the effort to bring single payer health reform to Massachusetts by becoming co-sponsors of the state bill this January. They should support single payer because it is so clearly the right and moral thing to do, and because their constituents have spoken clearly this election cycle. Ours are among the most dynamic legislators in the General Court, and they would bring great experience and leadership to finding a sustainable solution to one of the most intractable economic problems of the past quarter century.

Kathryn Audette, Steve Backman, Liz Blair, Christina Brown, Benjamin Day, Mardge Cohen, MD, Glynnis Cornock, Arlene Fredericks, Melody Hugo, Georgia Hollister Isman, Angela Letizia, Jess Liborio, Dawn Belkin Martinez, Lorie Miller, Suren Moodliar, Brian O’Connell, Annie Rousseau, Marguerite Rosenthal, Nancy Sableski, Ken Sazama, Gordon Schiff, MD, Bernie Smith, Melissa Threadgill, Denise Zwahlen
Residents of JP, Mission Hill and Roslindale

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