CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2005


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Fall 2005 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Fall 2005

  1. 1. CommonHealth Volume 2, Number 1 ~ Fall-Winter 2005 Universal Health Care Education Fund Background 2005MASS-CARE is nothing more nor less than a coalition of On March 19th, speakers’ training was held, followed byninety independent organizations in agreement on two our annual Ben Gill event, honoring our lead sponsorsthings: the need to create a single-payer system in Senator Tolman and Representative Hynes. SenatorMassachusetts and the need for national health insurance. Dianne Wilkerson came to present the award to herMASS-CARE is ten years old, having been launched in senatorial colleague. Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for1995 in the wake of 1994’s successful round of local non- a National Health Program was the keynote speaker,binding ballot questions in support of a single-payer explaining the ethical and legal implications of “everybodysystem for Massachusetts, spun off from the Jobs with in, nobody out.”Justice Health Care Action Committee. Over the yearsmany organizations, small and large, local or statewide, On June 8th, members of our hardworking Legislativesingle-issue or multi-issue, joined. MASS-CARE’s Committee presented our case to the Joint Committee ondirection, within the scope of its mission, is set by those Health Care Financing, even though the day was officiallywho attend the monthly Coordinating Committee meetings. devoted to all the incremental bills.Every participating organization has one vote, and everyindividual who shows up has a voice. Some groups have lenttheir name to this endeavor while never sendingrepresentatives. And some have clearly put the winning ofa single-payer system on their front burner. Each groupobviously decides its own agenda for itself.A generous grant from the estate of Dr. Ben Gill allowedour movement to set up an office and hire staff. Everyyear we’ve honored Ben with a gala event in his name. Thisinitial grant led us to set up the Universal Health CareEducation Fund (UHCEF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm tosupport educational work and research.Over the past decade, MASS-CARE has worked with On June 15th, aided by Sen. Steve Tolman (above), Rep.legislators to file specific legislation to attain our Frank Hynes and Dr. Alan Sager from the BU School ofprimary goal. With the opening of each legislative session, Public Health, we briefed a contingent of legislators andwe’ve filed revised legislation. Our current bill is S.755, An their aides on S.755, The Massachusetts Health CareAct to Establish the Massachusetts Health Care Trust, Trust. This educational session on the universal, single-with Senator Steve Tolman and Representative Frank payer solution to our healthcare crisis also featured Drs.Hynes as lead sponsors. Last fall’s revision of our bill Patricia Downs and Leo Stolbach, the Reverend Judyincluded specifics on the funding mechanisms and more Deutsch, and MASS-CARE Chair Sandy Eaton, RN.attention to the democratic governance of the projectedTrust, with eight directors to be elected across the Testimony on S.755 was presented to the Joint CommitteeCommonwealth. on Health Care Financing on July 20th, with a broad array of labor, community, senior, provider, policy and municipal Photos by Janne Hellgren & Rand Wilson representatives speaking out for a just healthcare system. Peggy O’Malley, RN, chair-emerita of MASS-CARE,
  2. 2. 2005 continueddelivered fresh information from Congressman Tierney’s strategy should be affordable and sustainable for society;office on how to obtain waivers to allow Massachusetts to and health care coverage should enhance health and well-tap into federal revenue streams as we construct our new being by promoting access to high quality care that issystem here. effective, efficient, safe, timely, patient-centered, and equitable. Another compares the four bills using the threeDriven by the mounting pressure from below for aspects of access, affordability and quality.fundamental change in health care as reflected in thecampaign to amend the state constitution to make accessto affordable health insurance a right of all who residehere, and by the need to renew a ten-year-old Medicaidwaiver, every legislator, it seems, has felt obliged to comeup with or support some legislation that purports to covereveryone. So we’ve seen the emergence of the Moore,Travaglini and Romney bills, in addition to the Tolman bill.Modeled after the gargantuan Roadmap to Coverageproposal authored by the Urban Institute and issued bythe Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation on October 7th, theHouse has issued its “omnibus” health reform package. Aswe write, it sits in conference committee, along with itsSenate counterpart.It’s exciting to see so much grassroots ferment aroundhealth care right now. We admit to some frustration atsome sloppy reporting that refers to any of the other bills On September 1st, Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall witnessedas “universal” (since none are), and some literature that an outpouring of support for HR.676, the Conyerscompares these complex bills without including S.755. Medicare for All bill, organized by the Health Care ActionGranted that the insurance lobby is very powerful on Committee of Jobs with Justice. The bulk of theBeacon Hill, nevertheless, the honest thing to do would be testimony was organized around the three themes ofto compare all the major proposals. Single-payer access, cost and quality, which organizers of the eventsupporters have developed several four-way comparisons. realized need to be addressed together. MASS-CARE wasOne comparison uses the five principles developed by the well-represented on the panels. Many MASS-CAREInstitute of Medicine in a report to Congress and the member organizations pulled out all the stops to maximizepublic last fall: health coverage should be universal; health the impact of this event. Since this meeting wascoverage should be continuous; health coverage should be scheduled for a workday, the Massachusetts Senioraffordable to individuals and families; health insurance Action Council takes the prize for mobilizing the most participants. Rand Wilson, currently on staff at IUE/CWA Local 201, wrote up this Congressional hearing and posted fifty-two action photos on the web. Members of the Legislative Committee continue to have frequent meetings with key legislators. While we welcome the expansion of Medicaid as a stopgap measure to cover more poor families, we know that this strategy ultimately leads to a dead end, shunting more money to the insurance and hospital industries while providing no vehicle for uniting people for negotiating with the pharmaceutical corporations to bring down drug prices. Inevitably, the next economic downturn will bring a flood of additional families pushed onto the Medicaid rolls just as the state tax revenues fall. As in the past, Medicaid will be cut when the need is greatest.
  3. 3. 2006MASS-CARE’s statewide meeting on November 19thoutlined three areas to focus on in the coming year: anassessment of our legislative support; greater effort toreach out with editorial letters, op-ed pieces andappearances on talk shows, cable TV and before liveaudiences; and a strategic plan for the upcomingelections, insisting that all legislative and gubernatorialcandidates support the people instead of the insuranceindustry. A subcommittee was appointed to flesh out theproposal to spin off an individual-member single-payerorganization for the Commonwealth, to build ourgrassroots movement more deeply.We’ve drafted an ambitious budget to support thisambitious plan. With the generous support of our memberorganizations and far-sighted individuals, especially rightnow, we’ll start the coming year with a bang. We’reexpanding our grant-writing efforts, and we’ve begun “Our market-based health care system is a colossalplanning for the next Ben Gill gala, slated for March. failure. It costs too much and provides too little. We needThanks for all your earlier support, and for your ongoing a single-payer system, just like every other advancedfaith in our prospects to build a just healthcare system! country.” - Marcia Angell, MD, July 20, 2005Here’s what people are saying: “The private health plans cannot be relied on to ensure that health care would remain affordable to women who“Health care is on the minds of lots of people these days. are having difficulties making a living wage.” - CatherineThe bad news is that insurance premiums are rising yet DeLorey, RN, PhD, Women’s Health Institute, July 20, 2005again. Many people are losing coverage altogether.” - JeanW. Dillard, RN, Lenox, Berkshire Eagle, April 15, 2005 “The healthcare system we have today fails people who work hard, play by the rules, and who want to do the best“Enact the Massachusetts Health Care Trust legislation in for their families and communities and their businesses.”order to provide availability and affordability of health - Christopher Poteet, Somerville, July 20, 2005care for all Massachusetts citizens.” - Boston City Council,July 13, 2005, “Today in Framingham, one out of every seven municipal dollars is spent on employee health insurance.” - Katie“For municipalities like mine, the escalating costs of Murphy, RN, Framingham, Chair, Framingham Board ofproviding health insurance have forced layoffs and Selectmen, July 20, 2005reductions in city services.” - Northampton Mayor MaryClare Higgins, July 18, 2005 “While throwing more money at the problem may cover a few more of the uninsured, it continues to fatten the"The single payer approach, by capping spending and insatiable special interests that are already feeding atcommitting to cover all residents of the Commonwealth, the trough.” - Jobs with Justice, October 17, 2005offers by far the best platform for spending moneycarefully, avoiding rationing by ability to pay, and “All but S.755 maintain reliance on a bevy of competingreducing health care waste." - Alan Sager & Deborah commercial insurance companies.” - Sandy Eaton, RN,Socolar, $1 Billion Per Week is Enough, July 20, 2005 Quincy, MASS-CARE, Patriot Ledger, October 18, 2005“Steadily rising costs of health care in the US have “Mandatory health coverage that forces low incomebecome an intolerable burden on businesses and on local, people to buy bare-bones insurance and punishes thosestate and federal government.” - Arnold S. Relman, MD, who can’t with tax penalties or garnishing wages is mean-July 20, 2005 spirited and abusive.” - Pat Downs Berger, MD, October 22, 2005
  4. 4. “The system continues to devour more and more resources “Its no longer reasonable to expect employers to takewithout improving itself. This will continue until strong responsibility for employees health, nor is it reasonablepolitical leadership emerges to tackle these tough for employees to be at the mercy of differing healthproblems.” - James J. Callahan Jr., West Newton, Boston plans.” - Joan Goodwin, Jamaica Plain, Boston Globe,Globe, October 27, 2005 November 7, 2005“Those of you who want S.755 enacted now should let your “Who will police the Houses requirement that all who canState Senator and State Representative know now. Calling will purchase private insurance? How will the state617 722 2000 will get you to the State House increase enrollment into MassHealth if it has failed?” -switchboard.” - Reverend Judy Deutsch, Legislative Chair, Marguerite Rosenthal, Jamaica Plain, Boston Globe,MASS-CARE, October 28, 2005 November 8, 2005“The Tolman/Hynes bill, S.755, is the only ethical and “I recognize that single-payer reform threatens theeconomically feasible proposed legislation when judged on multi-billion-dollar insurance industry and would forcethe basis of the Institute of Healths Five Principles for down the high profits enjoyed by drug companies.” - AliceExpansion of Health Care.” - Kathleen Bridgewater, Rothchild, MD, Alliance to Defend Health Care, BostonLeague of Women Voters Amherst, October 31, 2005 Globe, November 16, 2005“Why dont we extend government insurance coverage to “We work hard and scrape by. Other countries see oureveryone, and eliminate the profiteering middlemen?” - government as barbaric because of our lack of universalSusanne King, MD, Lenox, Berkshire Eagle, November 1, healthcare.” - Susan Tolbert, Greenfield, Boston Globe,2005 November 20, 2005“Attaining universal coverage is a worthy goal that would “We should not have to trade one expensive system for adecrease the strain felt in hospitals and emergency rooms, more expensive and more complex system that covers less.where the uninsured go for care after their illnesses.” - The single payer alternative is the most reasonableBerkshire Eagle Editorial, November 2, 2005 substitute.” - Frank Olbris, MTA, UMass - Amherst“If we cut bureaucracy to Canadas levels, we could save “The Health Care Trust will cover every Massachusetts$9.4 billion annually, enough to cover all of the 748,000 resident and will have no means testing or eligibilityuninsured in Massachusetts and to improve coverage for requirements other than Massachusetts residency.” -the rest of us.” - Steffie Woolhandler & David Reverend Judy Deutsch, Sudbury, League of WomenHimmelstein, Cambridge Chronicle, November 3, 2005 Voters of Massachusetts“Is there anything in this [House] bill about streamlining “Any solution that relies on maintaining a variety ofthe healthcare procedures? Is there anything about different plans will only further exacerbate a systemmoving toward preventive care?” - Tim Macchio, Roxbury, bloated with administrative bureaucracy.” - Beth Piknick,November 4, 2005 RN, President, Massachusetts Nurses Association, The Massachusetts Nurse, November-December 2005"Im not happy with [the House bill]. I havent seen thefinal amendments. I have some concerns about it. I thinkits more an insurance bill than a health care bill." -Secretary of State William Galvin, November 4, 2005 Universal Health Care Education Fund“We urge you to abandon your ill-conceived proposals for (UHCEF)health care reform and to adopt, instead, a single payer c/o MASS-CAREprogram of universal coverage for the Commonwealth.” - 8 Beacon Street, Suite 26281 Massachusetts MDs and PAs, November 5, 2005 Boston, MA 02108 P: 617-723-7001“The primary purpose of health insurance deductibles and F: 617-723-7002coinsurance has always been to discourage utilization.‘Its the insurance companies, stupid’.” - Art Mazer, MPH, www.masscare.orgMassachusetts Human Services Coalition, November 7, ‘05