An Open Letter to Governor Baker and the Massachusetts Legislature
In the midst of an overwhelming pandemic, we see with crystal clarity that the health of each of us depends on the health of everyone. At the same time, we face the terrifying truth that our country lacks the basic infrastructure and preparedness to deal with this crisis. Massachusetts residents, health care providers, and public officials are scrambling to limit, test for, and treat the disease. Our best efforts in Massachusetts, however, are impeded not only by the lack of national leadership, but also by a highly fragmented, privatized, and inadequate approach to health care financing and planning.
COVID-19 is a wake-up call for the country and the Commonwealth to move toward a Single Payer system as quickly as possible. It is imperative that the Single Payer principles being pursued during this crisis are implemented as fully as possible and continue after the crisis abates.
UNIVERSAL COVERAGE FREE AT THE POINT OF SERVICE: In order to control the spread of COVID-19 infection and limit mortality, every person must be able to access testing and treatment for the disease with no gaps in coverage or cost at the point of service. A publicly-funded Single Payer system would guarantee comprehensive coverage for every resident with no financial barriers to care.
HEALTH CARE REGARDLESS OF EMPLOYMENT: As the economy slows, many workers and their families will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance. They will face difficulty paying monthly premiums and out of pocket charges along with other bills, and accumulate mounting debt. Single Payer would eliminate medical debt and provide lifetime coverage regardless of employment.
PLANNING AND COORDINATION: The response to COVID-19 has been slow and dangerously inadequate in the U.S. Single Payer would provide the infrastructure and expertise to plan effectively for health emergencies, coordinate resources and communications, and readily access broad data-sets for decision-making.
FUNDING FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND MEDICAL CARE: Public health in the U.S. is woefully under-funded and funding for medical care is driven by competing private interests, not public need or equity. A Single Payer system would have the incentive to balance funding priorities and the clout to negotiate prices with big Pharma and other suppliers to bring down costs and prevent price gouging.
We will be a different country after the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is likely only the first of many public health challenges we will face as our changing climate causes unimaginable disruption in the biosphere. When the current crisis has passed, we must move immediately toward establishing a permanent Single Payer system. While even a few weeks ago it may have seemed “pie in the sky” to many, today Single Payer is demonstrably the most practical and necessary system if we are to maintain health care stability in an uncertain future. Until that happens at the national level, Massachusetts must lead among the states.
Western Mass. Medicare for All therefore calls upon Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka, House Speaker De Leo, and the Massachusetts Legislature to guarantee universal coverage for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination with no financial or other barriers to care including income, employment, citizenship status, or any other factors. To commence as soon as the current crisis abates, we further call for an immediate plan to transition to a Single Payer system in the Commonwealth based on the principles set forth in “An Act Establishing Medicare for All in Massachusetts” (S684, H1194).