CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2007


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Spring 2007 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2007

  1. 1. CommonHealth Volume 2, Number 4 ~ Spring 2007 Universal Health Care Education Fund MASS-CARE Picking Up Steam New Co-chairs Outline Plans for Coming YearThe incoming Co-Chairs of MASS-CARE, Pat Downs Outreach efforts using the cost-control agenda as anBerger and Jackie Wolf, are enthusiastically setting up organizing tool can be done on many levels and should bethe agenda for the next year. Pat is a retired primary planned to target groups that will expand our influencecare physician who has been working with MASS-CARE with the legislature, strengthen our coalition, and improvefor the past ten years as a volunteer and recently as our financial situation. Key outreach efforts include:Treasurer of MASS-CARE and UHCEF. Jackie Wolf has a. specific legislators on key committees or pastbeen an activist in the League of Women Voters on its supporters of single payer who need to be proddedhealth care committee. Coming from Amherst she will help b. new groups that have a voice as “stakeholders”coordinate MASS-CARE’s coalition in central and western such as business organizations, minority groups,Massachusetts as well as adding her organizing expertise. doctors and nurses and municipalities c. the governor’s office In order to support our outreach efforts, MASS-CARE needs two new committees that will give us the resources to fulfill our agenda. The new committees are: a. Fundraising to raise funds for MASS-CARE and UHCEF over a year’s time, including grant writing, newsletter publications, events, branded items for sale and fundraising training sessions to enhance our individual solicitations. b. Media/Speakers Bureau committee to set up a rapid response team to answer critics of SingleThe mission of MASS-CARE continues to be enacting a Payer, set up speakers’ training sessions, trainSingle Payer healthcare system for Massachusetts. MASS-CARE volunteers for lobbying ourUnfortunately the Massachusetts Legislature is focused legislators, maintain an active up-to-date web site,on implementing the new health care law (Chapter 58) and establish a speakers’ bureau so all requests foris very unlikely to consider the Single Payer Health Care presentations around the state can be honored, andTrust bill (S.703) this year. We can, however, try to cultivate op-ed writers, letters-to-the-editor, radioadvance a legislative program that will lead us toward a show interviews and local access TV opportunities.Single Payer system. Therefore, the focus of our work forthe next year should be to advance a cost-control agenda. We need volunteers for any of the jobs in either ofFor this reason we believe that working to form a these committees in order to be successful in our effortspowerful coalition to push cost control legislation is an to strengthen our coalition for Single Payer health care.effective way to recruit new partners and to continue to We especially would appreciate grant writers,mobilize support for a Single Payer health care system. fundraisers, media contacts, speakers and a web siteCurrent cost control legislation we are supporting: guru. a. Bulk purchasing bill to lower the cost of drugs b. Uniform billing to simplify the bureaucracy Pat and Jackie are looking forward to a productive year c. Regulation of insurance companies to reduce the with you, our volunteers, to bring us closer to a single percent of the health care premium dollar spent on payer health care system for Massachusetts. marketing, lobbying and profits, and maximize the amount spent on direct medical care.
  2. 2. 2007 Ben Gill GalaSupporters of the Massachusetts Campaign for Single Sharing the honor this year is Grace Ross, known to all asPayer Health Care (MASS-CARE) and its nonprofit the gubernatorial candidate who stuck to the basic issueseducational partner, the Universal Health Care Education which affect us all, including the need for real healthcareFund (UHCEF), gathered to raise money for the cause and reform. Her campaign continues unflaggingly as she worksto celebrate the growing grassroots movement for with MASS-CARE and legislators to craft and bundlefundamental reform. pieces of legislation that complement the Massachusetts Health Care Trust bill, our single-payer focus, and seek to address cost-containment issues not dealt with by Chapter 58, the current health reform legislation. Participatory workshops explored such issues as health care and immigrant rights, responding to the individual mandate and developing a cost control agenda. Report- backs allowed for a sharing of concerns and insights in these areas. Greetings were brought to this celebration by Mayor Kenneth ReevesOn March 24th, scores of people from all across and StateMassachusetts assembled in the Ryles Jazz Club in Representative AliceCambridge to honor two champions in the fight for a Wolf. Leaders of suchhealthcare system that provides high-quality, coalition partners ascomprehensive, affordable care to all. Spirited music by Jobs with Justice, themembers of the Consortium for Psychotherapy punctuated Massachusetts Seniorthe afternoon, led by Joseph Lillyman. Richard Sherman Action Council,brought insights into the life and times of Dr. Benjamin Physicians for a National Health Program, theGill. Massachusetts Nurses Association, the League of Women Voters, the Consortium for Psychotherapy, the Ethical The keynote was delivered by Dr. Society, DSA, JALSA and so Arnold Relman, editor emeritus of many others joined in. the New England Journal of Medicine and MASS-CARE UHCEF president and former Advisory Board member, who Cambridge mayor Barbara would shortly be traveling to Ackermann introduced Mayor Saskatchewan with Dr. Marcia Reeves, who shared his vision of Angell to confer with Canadians the necessity of a just healthcare in struggle to avoid the pitfalls of system for the good of the whole market medicine. community.The first recipient of the Dr. Benjamin Gill Memorial The event was a success by any standard.Award this year is Barbara Sullivan, a graduate of theQuincy City Hospital School of Nursing who retired fromstate service in 1989. For many years Barbara chaired theHealth Care Committee of the Massachusetts League ofWomen Voters, providing testimony and leading Only 25% of our annual budget is met throughdelegations up Beacon Hill. Her courage in the face of the Ben Gill Gala. Please give generously to this quarterly appeal. Individual members and affiliatedsome contrary legislators continues to inspire those newer organization are our lifeblood. Thank you for yourto this experience. ongoing support. We’ve all got a lot of work ahead of us.
  3. 3. Testimony Before Massachusetts Connector Authority (abridged) Benjamin Day, Executive Director, MASS-CARE, May 29, 2007The state is poised to conduct a very dangerous onto the sick and the injured. Those who are lucky enoughexperiment in health reform by essentially punishing the not to need medical care will pay less, while those unluckyuninsured if they do not purchase health coverage as a enough to need care will pay more than they would undercommodity on the private market. This is dangerous the plan with higher premiums.because requiring individuals to purchase health care as acommodity is the most regressive way of paying for Plans with high cost sharing virtually guarantee thathealth care – more regressive than employer-sponsored enrollees will not increase their usage of preventive careinsurance, and much, much more regressive than paying or be encouraged to seek early intervention.for healthcare like we pay for Medicare or Medicaid,through payroll or income taxes. In a way, the appointees to the Connector Board have been charged with a very unfair task. You have been asked to extend insurance to the uninsured, an extremely important task, but the primary tool you have been given to pay for extended coverage is the regressive financing mechanism of requiring the uninsured to pay fixed sums out of their own pockets. The public funding to supplement this task has been woefully inadequate since the new law raised almost no new funds, and any further resources must be squeezed out of the General Funds. You have been asked to treat one horrible symptom of our health care crisis by reducing the growing ranks of the uninsured, but you have been given no tools with which to address the causes of that health care crisis: no means of controlling the underlying costs of health care, no means of reducing the inequalities or price disparities of the health system.We also pay for health care within a system that has noeffective cost controls, and the costs of health care have Over a dozen employer mandates have been passed inbeen rising out of control for many years now. states across the country, including in Massachusetts in 1988, but all but one have gone unimplemented simplyMASS-CARE is opposed to individual mandates for because mandating the purchase of ever-more-expensiveexactly this reason, because individual mandates manage health care results in significant backlash impose a regressive burden on the uninsured withoutcontrolling costs. There was not a single grassroots The full text of Ben’s remarks are posted on Seachangeorganization that I am aware of that pushed for Bulletin ( mandates during the law’s formulation, so it is or may be obtained by calling the office. Ben’s expandedessentially a framework for insuring the uninsured that analysis of “consumer-driven” health care and thelacks a popular base of support. But nonetheless this is individual mandate, “Force-feeding health insurance:the framework within which we are discussing Labor and the push for individual mandates,” will beaffordability and minimum creditable coverage, and a few published shortly in the academic quarterly WorkingUSAimportant things should be said. for June 2007. His pioneering powerpoint presentation on Chapter 58 and all such incremental attempts at reformOne response to the prohibitively expensive cost of health can be accessed from the MASS-CARE web has been to introduce plans with highdeductibles, copayments and coinsurance. These have been This issue: Executive Director Benjamin Day;disingenuously referred to as more “affordable,” but Editor, Sandy Eaton; copy: Pat Berger, Sandy Eaton,there is nothing more affordable about plans with high Ann Eldridge Malone, Jackie Wolf; photos: Patcost sharing. The only difference between a high- Berger, Sandy Eaton, Riley Ohlson; layout: Erin Servaes, Chris Doucette; printing compliments of thedeductible plan and a high premium plan with no Massachusetts Nurses Association.deductible, is that the high-deductible plan shifts costs
  4. 4. MASS-CARE on Beacon Hill MASS-CARE in CoalitionBesides our Executive Director’s stirring testimony On March 7th, Pat Berger, Carlos Da Silva, Sandy Eatonbefore the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector and Julie Pinkham, members of MASS-CARE’s AdvisoryBoard in Gardner Auditorium on May 29th, MASS-CARE Board, joined with Stop & Shop workers, members of thehas kept a high profile on Beacon Hill. United Food & Commercial Workers Union, and many, many others in a successful rally to block cost-shifting ofOn January 2nd we witnessed the tragic demise of the health insurance costs at the bargaining table. Pat andcitizens’ initiative to amend the state constitution to Julie got their turns at the microphone, putting thismake access to affordable, comprehensive health struggle into a broader the right of all who reside here. SenatorRichard Moore, Senate chair of the Joint Committee onHealth Care Financing, publicly cited Chapter 58, the“Massachusetts miracle,” as the reason for doing in theamendment initiative.On February 27th, we organized a legislative briefing oncost-containment bills now being considered. FormerMassachusetts Insurance Commissioner and MASS-CAREAdvisory Board member Peter Hiam prefaced the meetingwith the rationale for moving to a single-payer system.Alan Sager brought further data to bear on the enormouswaste in the system. An aide to Senator Mark Montignypresented the facts on bulk purchasing ofpharmaceuticals. Senator Pat Jehlen discussed her bill to MASS-CARE participates in the Massachusetts Labor forcap insurance company overhead. Senator Steve Tolman, Health Care coalition, many of whose organizations hadlead Senate sponsor of the Massachusetts Health Care come together to advance the healthcare constitutionalTrust bill and MASS-CARE Advisory Board member, amendment. We host meetings of the Health Care Actionpresented the work he and Senator Bruce Tarr have been Committee of Jobs with Justice in our new office, anddoing to achieve a uniform billing system in the are engaged in efforts to block cost-shifting onto QuincyCommonwealth. On a slightly more controversial note, teachers and Lynn GE workers.Representative Rachel Kaprielian discussed the proposal tomove municipal workers into the plans brokered by theCommonwealth’s Group Insurance Commission. Scores oflegislators and their aides made it standing room only.Since then, MASS-CARE has presented testimony insupport of bulk purchasing and uniform billing.On Wednesday, July 18th, the Joint Committee onHealth Care Financing will take testimony on a raft ofbills, including the Massachusetts Health Care Trust andSenator Jehlen’s insurance company overhead caps. Tryto arrange your schedule to be in the State House that Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF)day. MASS-CARE and friends will be organizing c/o MASS-CAREtestimony once again. Your presence and support will let 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floorall know that there can be a better, more just way to Boston, MA 02111enhance health and well-being. Make sure you’re on our P: 617-723-7001contact list so you’ll be sent all the details as they F: 617-723-7002become known.