Last April and May, I joined with members of Western Mass Medicare for All to collect signatures to get a non-binding referendum on the November ballot giving voters the opportunity to weigh in on the question of whether they would support single-payer health care in Massachusetts. Getting people to sign my petition was the easiest sell I’ve ever made. Those I spoke with were fed up with rising health care costs and fearful that the stripping away of the Affordable Care Act was going to further erode their access to health care.
We gathered the requisite signatures for the ballot question to appear in six western Mass districts. For years, bills designed to provide accessible, affordable and quality single-payer health care to every resident in the Commonwealth, gathered dust sitting in committee. A “yes” vote on question 4 will give our Massachusetts legislators the message that the time has come to pass a Medicare for All bill.
Contrary to what many believe, Massachusetts does not have universal health care. In fact, more than 200,000 people in this state are not covered by health insurance. When I tell people I’m working to pass Medicare for All in Massachusetts, they usually support the idea, but often their pessimism rises to the surface: “The insurance and medical industries will never let it happen. The federal government won’t let it happen. We can’t afford it.” This kind of defeatist attitude among my friends and among our lawmakers stands in the way of the realization that most of the industrialized world has managed to provide universal health care for its residents.
There are many issues that have to be addressed in order to make sure that Medicare for All legislation will improve health care and pave the way for a system of national health care in the United States. The only way this will happen is to give our legislators a strong message of support for getting a Medicare for All bill, so that it can be thoroughly discussed and debated openly in the House and Senate. Voting YES on Question 4 will convey that message.
Sara Weinberger is a human rights activist, a Gazette columnist, and head of the Easthampton hub of Western Mass. Medicare for All. This commentary first appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, 10.15.18