CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2008


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Spring 2008 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2008

  1. 1. CommonHealth Volume 2, Number 6 ~ Spring 2008 Universal Health Care Education Fund Report from Co-Chair Pat Berger Report from Co-Chair Jackie WolfThis election year is the year to promote single payer Mass-Care is teaming up with the Amherst League oflocally, statewide and nationally. This is the year to elect Women Voters addressing Rotary Clubs all over theSingle Payer candidates and to show our legislators that Commonwealth. The talk we present is entitled “Thewe support an equitable health care system that covers Massachusetts Medical Miracle? No, a Mess.” The focuseveryone. of the talk is not just the problems with Chapter 58. We explain the Massachusetts Health Care Trust and end ourLocally Mass-Care, in collaboration with the Green- remarks with a charge to the audience to talk with theirRainbow Party, hopes to have a non-binding ballot question legislators about this real solution to the healthcare many towns across the Commonwealth that wouldinstruct legislators to support the Single Payer Health This effort started three years ago when League membersCare Trust Bill. In order to accomplish this, we need to Diana Stein and I addressed the Amherst Rotary Club. Thecollect 200 valid signatures in each targeted legislative “campaign” really got going when Jim Herbert stepped in.district. Once the signatures are verified, local Mass-Care Jim is a Winchester Rotary Club and Mass-Care member.supporters can write letters-to-the-editor, pass out He took charge of the effort and spent hours on theleaflets and speak with neighbors to get voter approval phone lining up Rotary Club invitations. In the east, wefor the ballot question in November. have talked to Rotarians in Winchester, Everett, Dedham, Peabody, Wakefield, Danvers, Malden, Burlington and manyStatewide we need to support candidates who will vote for other municipalities. In the west, we have talked to theSingle Payer. When candidates have debates or meetings, Rotary Clubs of Greenfield, Ludlow and Northampton. Wewe should ask questions about whether they support single are in line to speak in Ware, Springfield, Palmer, Holyoke,payer and what they will do about our present health care North Adams/Williamstown, and Easthampton. Thelaw Chapter 58, which does not provide universal coverage, audiences are attentive and receptive to the not sustainable due to rising costs, but does fine the Sure, we get people who ask challenging questions – but wemany vulnerable people who can’t afford to buy like that. We are prepared, and enjoy discussing thesecommercial insurance. When we are asked to donate to issues. It is most heartening when members of thelegislative campaigns, be sure to ask where the candidate audience say, “This is terrific; we should have singlestands on Single Payer health reform. payer,” and when doctors come up after the talks to shake our hands and encourage us to keep informing the public.Nationally none of the remaining presidential candidatesis supporting a Single Payer system. Clinton, Obama and Talking to people around the state is vital to our effort.McCain retain the present private commercial insurance If you are a member of an organization that invitessystem that has demonstrated for years that it can’t speakers, please contact Ben Day at Mass-Care (617-723-provide universal coverage, can’t control spiraling costs 7001). We will be delighted to make arrangements to sendand can’t provide quality care. All three candidates a speaker; I assure you, it will be tax credits, which cannot cover escalatingpremiums costs, We need to elect new progressivemembers of Congress to pass Conyers bill HR.676, This issue: Executive Director Benjamin Day; editor, SandyMedicare for All, and we need keep up the pressure on Eaton; copy: Pat Berger, Linda Delman, Judy Deutsch, Sandythose members of our Congressional delegation who do not Eaton, John Horgan, Stephen Lewis, Grace Ross, Rand Wilson,yet support this bill. This election year, we must Jackie Wolf; photos: Sandy Eaton, Rand Wilson; printingconfront the health care crisis as a matter of social compliments of the Massachusetts Nurses Association.justice, medical necessity and economic urgency.
  2. 2. Judy Deutsch & Grace Ross: Tenth Ben Gill Gala Roaring Success Healthcare Reform That WorksThe question for Mass-Care as we struggle to achieve truehealthcare reform is: Should we simply identify SinglePayer as our ideal and settle for nothing less? Mass-Carethinks not, given the current reality of Chapter 58. Ourbest approach right now is to support policies thatembody Single Payer reform. Mass-Care is supportingthree cost control measures that are actual componentparts of Single-Payer, demonstrating our role asknowledgeable and constructive problem solvers. Costcontrol policies that are compatible with a Single Payerhealth care system are moving forward at this moment.Uniform billing is one of the big money savers in singlepayer health care and is a building block for single payer.Mass-Care is backing the uniform billing section in SenatePresident Therese Murray’s Cost Containment bill S.2660. Senator Pat Jehlen, honoreeThis bill is likely to pass this year. Ryles Jazz Club in Inman Square, Cambridge, once moreBulk-buying of prescription drugs is also a big money played host to the Mass-Care/UHCEF spring fund-raisersaver, and shows that savings don’t have to mean cuts in and confab. With music by the Consortium forcare. Long ago legislation was passed that gave the Psychotherapy’s jazz combo and food by S&S Deli, theGovernor the power to establish a bulk purchasing system. atmosphere was just right to honor Senator Pat Jehlen,Mass-Care is leading the effort to get all Massachusetts Nobel laureate Bernard Lown and Mass-Care’s own Timstate agencies that purchase pharmaceuticals to do so at Macchio. Keynote speeches by Representative Jamiethe lowest costs possible through one bulk purchasing Eldridge and former Secretary of State candidate Johnsystem. Mass-Care is gathering figures on actual savings Bonifaz highlighted the urgency of expanded democracythrough nonprofit purchasing agents that could apply to to win the fight for a just healthcare system. There wasall the agencies, and will lobby the Governor’s office to good representation from the Alliance to Defend Healthimplement bulk purchasing policy. Care (formerly the Ad Hoc Committee), with its chair emeritus Dr. Bernard Lown being honored. Unfortunately,Capping the amount of our health premium dollars that both Dr. Lown and Tim Macchio were unable to be there ininsurance companies can spend on overhead (including person. Grassroots organizations from right acrosseverything from CEO salaries to advertising) will help Massachusetts were present.control the spiraling costs of health care premiums. Mass-Care has been working in support of Senator Jehlen’s billto cap the insurance industry’s non-medical expenditures.This “Care Share” bill has not yet moved out ofcommittee, but Mass-Care is thrilled that we will soon havean interactive web site which will be a key educationaltool exposing the waste in the insurance industry. The website will demonstrate how much of the health premiumdollar is going to profits and overhead, and will allowindividuals, small businesses, municipalities, unions andproviders to tell their side of the healthcare crisis.These cost control bills can play a critical role in creatingreal changes now that will improve health care, controlcosts, support Single Payer healthcare reform andposition us as effective and knowledgeable advocates in Sarah Bennett, Zach Weltman, John Goodsonthe larger battle still to come! ¡Alante! & Leo Stolbach sing along (ADHC in action)
  3. 3. Linda Delman & Stephen Lewis: SEIU Local 509 Rand Wilson: Health Care Action Day EventsThis winter Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick About 500 Verizon workers across Massachusetts ralliedproposed a rise in health care premiums for state workers on May 22 to promote health care reforms that will coverto help close the one billion dollar budget shortfall. Some everyone, control costs and improve the quality of care.workers’ premiums would increase by as much as 10%. Over And throughout the day many thousands more worea few weeks time SEIU Local 509 contacted its members stickers on the job calling for "No Cuts in Our email, urging them to contact their legislators to voice Lets Fight for Health Care for All!"their concerns. This effort was met with overwhelmingsuccess because thousands of emails and phone calls were Most of the events featured a short presentation aboutmade. The proposal was defeated in the House on May 5, how best to solve the problem of rising health care costs.2008. A similar success is anticipated in the upcoming Workers held signs and passed out educational in the Senate. In spite of what we hope will be asuccessful effort to prevent an increase in the Verizon, like so many companies, is once again attemptingpercentage of the premium we pay as state workers, this to pressure its employees to pay more for the cost ofis neither the first nor last time that our healthcare costs their health insurance. Union members endured a bruisingwill be under attack. We will continue to be under the gun 17-week strike in 1989 to stop concessions and preserveuntil something is done about the uncontrollable increases quality health health care insurance costs. "Shifting premium costs to employees is not a solution. It wont hold down skyrocketing healthcare costs or improve the quality of care," Dr. David Himmelstein from Physicians for a National Health Program told a group in Watertown. "It only lets employers avoid their responsibility to work for real solutions." "When workers stand up to their employers to prevent shifting benefit costs, it puts pressure on management to begin working for a real national solution," said former gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross. "All working people need secure, affordable health care coverage, even if they get laid-off, change jobs or work part time. Only a Medicare for All reform that would improve and expand 509’s Stephen Lewis with Verizon workers on May 22nd our national Medicare program can provide that kind of coverage."In March 2008, the AFL-CIO sent out an online healthcare survey and received more than 26,000 responses. Events were held in Boston, Woburn, Braintree, Weymouth,There were many personal accounts of health care Dedham, Dorchester, Watertown, Andover, Methuen,shortcomings. One astounding figure is that 46% of all Lawrence, Lynn, Lowell, Brockton, Taunton, Marlboro,respondents say their out-of-pocket health care costs last Boylston and Springfield.year were between $1000 and $5000, while 17% with healthcare coverage paid out more than $5000. Seventy-nine In addition to Himmelstein, Ross and many shop stewards,percent (79%) of respondents report that health care will there were speakers from healthcare reform groupsbe a major issue in the 2008 presidential and including: Dr. Pat Berger and Ben Day from Mass-Care;congressional campaigns. Ninety-six percent (96%) of Jeff Crosby, North Shore Labor Council; and Dr. Cherylinsured respondents reported fear of being unable to Hamlin, Physicians for a National Health Program.afford coverage during the next few years and 97% saythey plan to vote this fall. Verizon workers in Massachusetts are united in the IBEW and CWA. Jobs with Justice is a workers’ rights coalition.Health care will be a major issue in this election year. Its health care campaign links workers’ struggles againstSEIU Local 509 recommends contacting your legislators insurance cost shifting and cuts in health care services toto make your opinions on quality affordable healthcare help build a larger movement for comprehensive reforms.known. Learn more at
  4. 4. Mass-Care Needs You! John Horgan: Triple-Header April 28thYou may not realize it but you have the talents needed to Healthcare activists from across the country gathered inachieve a Single Payer universal health care system! Boston to learn about the recently enacted Massachusetts healthcare reform law. The day was broken up into threeMass-Care needs: segments highlighting the problems our current system of health insurance presents. • Office volunteers to make phone calls, write letters, stuff envelopes and collate signatures for a The morning consisted of a panel presentation on the ballot initiative. Chapter 58 and its health insurance mandates. Local • Volunteers to work on our Legislative Committee, reform activists Sandy Eaton, Janet Hand, Ann Malone, organizing our members to speak to their Susan Sered and Robert Gaw informed an audience of legislators, going to the legislature to testify or out-of-towners on the history of Massachusetts reform lobby, developing legislative strategy. attempts. They explained how Massachusetts (of all • Fundraising volunteers to write grants and to plan places) came to enact health insurance mandates. The events such as “SiCKO” house parties and local presentation also focused on the many flaws with Chapter fundraisers. 58 and how people are actually being harmed by this type • Volunteers for our Speakers’ Bureau. We are of reform. Testimonials were presented by Elisa McKernan invited to gives presentations all around the state. and Joseph Parker of the Boston Liberation Health Group We are planning a speakers’ training session in the on exactly how this reform is hurting their families and fall. clients. • Contacts with the media. We need contacts with radio, TV, newspapers; we need letters-to-the- A Q&A session followed. Michael Lighty from California editor, op-eds and a songwriter to make a Single Nurses spoke on how California was able to stop Payer public announcement ad. individual-mandate legislation and helped Ray Stever (IUC • Support for Single Payer candidates. Mass-Care New Jersey) develop strategies to stop this from will be sending out questionnaires to all candidates happening in New Jersey. Kay and Walter Tillow from about their position on health care reform so Kentucky encouraged attendees to join the fight to pass voters will know who is a Single Payer candidate. HR.676, Representative Conyers’ single-payer bill. Much • Volunteers to gather signatures for a ballot was shared in this morning session before we broke for question instructing legislators to support Single lunch and our trip to the State House for a showing of Payer and vote down the individual mandate. “SiCKO” in Gardner Auditorium.Contact Mass-Care at 617-723-7001 or email We were greeted there by Benjamin Day, Mass-Care to lend us your talents. the crowd from Massachusetts Senior Action Council, joined by State House staffers who were able to attend. Check out Mass-Care’s new web site! The movie is a must-see for those who care about real reform. We had the pleasure to meet and hear fromOur web site has been completely revamped, thanks to Adrian Campbell and Donna Smith, who shared theiryour generosity, but the address has remained the same. firsthand accounts of what they went through and howNavigation tools will get you to the information you want they have turned their experience into the motivation toquickly. The home page has a handy calendar of events work for a single-payer national healthcare system.and two single-payer news feeds. Tell us what you think. The day finished with a rally in the rain with Tom Morello Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and his Axis of Justice tour. We marched from the State c/o Mass-Care House to the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common, 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floor where we joined Tom, Boots Riley, State Radio and Gary Boston, MA 02111 for a concert for It was an action- P: 617-723-7001 filled day with many groups coming together: IBEW Local F: 617-723-7002 2222, MNA, CNA, JwJ, HC-NOW, Mass-Care, Boston Liberation Health Group, Tom Morello and Donna Smith.