CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2012


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Spring 2012 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2012

  1. 1. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1 ~ SPRING 2012 CommonHealth Massachusetts Medicare for All Bill Gets a Hearing Single Payer Amendment Sparks Debate on State Senate Floor Congratulations to all the single-payer supporters who called their senators on a very short time-line to support Senator Jamie Eldridge’s single-payer amendment to the Senate’s Health Care Cost Control bill S.2066. The groundswell of support from a broad range of grassroots organizations from Mass-Care’s coalition sparked the first single-payer debate on the floor of the Senate and culminated with 15 out of 40 senators supporting it! Only six more senators are needed to pass single payer next time! Senator Eldridge said in his blog: “Many of my colleagues told me the phone just kept ringing with single-payer supporters. Some legislators who may have been wavering stood with us because they knew their constituents were watching. Others gave the amendment more serious considerationThe “Act for Improved Medicare for All in Massachu- after initially dismissing it.” He went on to say: “We didn’t win onsetts: Providing Guaranteed, Affordable Health Care” - our amendment yesterday, it’s true ... However, yesterday’s vote wasMass-Care’s single-payer bill - came before the Joint absolutely a victory – and it was a victory because of theCommittee on Health Care Financing on December 15th. grassroots.”Despite barely a week’s notice, a respectable array ofadvocates offered testimony. Senator Dan Wolf spoke The amendment filed by Senator Eldridge would have implemented amovingly of the inevitability of the leap to truly universal plan to achieve a single-payer system (similar to the plan Vermonthealth care. Senator Jamie Eldridge and Professor Jerry has established), but only if benchmarks on slowing the growth ofFriedman spoke, as did Ben Day, Reverend Judy Deutsch, healthcare costs demonstrated that a single-payer system wouldLeo Stolbach, MD, Carroll Eastman, MD, Katie Murphy, RN out-perform the cost control benchmarks in the present Costand Sandy Eaton, RN. US Senatorial candidate Marisa Control bill S.2066. The Senate bill relies on various paymentDeFranco argued forcefully for a just healthcare system. reform strategies and significant increases in regulatory control byA fair number of supporters came to the event, although the Division of Insurance to slow the growth in health care costs.their numbers looked sparse in the expanse of GardnerAuditorium. - Sandy Eaton The 15 Senators who supported the single-payer amendment were: Senators Brownsberger, Chang-Diaz, Clark, Creem, DiDomenico, Donnelly, Downing, Eldridge, Fargo, Jehlen, McGee, Montigny, Pacheco, Rosenberg and Wolf. We need to thank these courageous senators for voting “yes” on amendment #125 despite opposition by the Senate leadership. Senator Chang-Diaz stated during the floor debate: “Its foolish and stubborn for us to refuse to even look at what other countries and other states are getting right, and how they have been able to succeed or fail ... at providing high-quality health care at a lower cost." Senator Montigny said: “The first thing we have to do is admit right now in this climate the employer can’t pay their premiums and the insured cannot.” The State House News reported that “(Senator) Brownsberger called the amendment ‘entirely consistent’ with the thrust of the underlying bill that aims to shave $150 billion in health care costs Katie Murphy & Sandy Eaton over 15 years,” and (Senator) “Pacheco suggested the amendment represented a warning to the industry that he said has failed to"I want to cover everybody. Now, the truth is that, unless control its costs by showing them that lawmakers were seriousyou have a single-payer system - in which everybody is about alternatives.” Check out Mass-Care’s websiteautomatically covered, then youre probably not going to ( for more information on the exact wording ofreach every single individual." - President Barack Obama, the amendment, a summary of Senate Bill 2066 and other commentsJuly 22, 2009 from senators. - Pat Berger
  2. 2. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1 ~ SPRING 2012 Fourteenth Annual Mass-Care Single Payer Gala: In Memory of Ben Gill Our second honoree, Dr. Arnold We were fortunate to have two Relman, was introduced with a New excellent keynote speakers. Mark York Times video, making this Mass- Dudzik, National Coordinator of the Care’s bold step into the world of Labor Campaign for Single Payer, multi-media. Dr. Relman voiced his stressed that single payer will not be ongoing concern about the problem of won without the strong leadership of viewing health care delivery as a labor. business, making it impossible to control costs. Leo Stolbach, Judy Deutsch & Marsha! DeutschRyles Jazz Club was once again thesetting for this year’s verysuccessful Single Payer Gala. Withlively, tuneful music by Joe Lillyman’sJazz Ensemble, participants enjoyed Jeff Santos Abram Chipman, Sue Chipman & Mike Pattbergdelicacies catered by S&S deli. MCKatie Murphy kept the program Not only did we have the video, we Jeff Santos, host on Revolutionmoving, and it was a full one! also had a representative from Boston 1510 AM, emphasized the Brookline Cable TV taping the entire importance of raising the profile of event! (We look forward to seeing single payer throughout that on BAT in the near future.) Massachusetts, and mentioned that we need to link up with celebrities, including professional sports figures. Pat Berger & Joe Li!ymanAfter Vic Bloomberg delivered somecomments in appreciation of Dr. BenGill, Sandy Eaton, our first honoree, Cape Care Activist & Brian O’Ma!ey Ben Day & Alexis Marvelspoke about how he got involved in with Maria Termini in Backgroundthe movement for health care A third speaker, UMass studentjustice, stressing the importance of We also had a sing-along as John Alexis Marvel, spoke about theour new urban initiative. Healey provided great new single- problem that students have with high payer lyrics to the tune of “Teach Your Children.” health insurance fees in the University of Massachusetts system. Mass-Care is happy to be supporting the students’ efforts to correct that situation. Ben Day ended the afternoon with brief comments about the upcoming Big Cities Campaign. - Bea Mikulecky Mike Fadel, Arnold Relman & Marcia Ange! Merrie Eaton & Mark Dudzic
  3. 3. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1 ~ SPRING 2012 Launching Three Cities Campaign What the State Legislature is Focus on Springfield Proposing for Cost ControlThe Health Care Committee of the Amherst League of WomenVoters – one of our Mass-Care coalition organizations – is working America has been unable to control rising healthcare costsin Springfield to tell residents about single payer and the despite decades of attempted cost control measures.improved Medicare for All Massachusetts bill.  What we have Massachusetts is about to pass its latest version of costlearned to date is that very few people in Springfield know about control legislation once the Conference Committeesingle payer, much less the bill. We’ve got our work cut out – basic consolidates Senate bill S.2066 and the House bill HB. 4070. The House and Senate bills have similarities, but the“hit the streets” grassroots work. House bill sets tougher goals in cutting cost growth (theWe have given three presentations in Springfield this spring: to state GSP minus 0.5%), while the Senate is aiming for GSPthe Rotary Club, to the Kiwanis Club and at a conference of plus 0.5%. Both bills establish independent authorities toWestern Massachusetts Jobs with Justice (WMJW). We have collect data on health care costs and track the progress oftalked with two dozen people, from community leaders to non- their cost reduction goals. Both bills plan to use capitatedprofit directors to labor organizers. Every time we give Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) instead of thepresentations or sit down to talk, we bring Mass-Care hand-outs. current fee-for-service payment system because currentWe ask for help identifying more people to talk with, opportunities dogma insists that fee-for-service is causing costs to speak to community groups and events where we can set up a Both the Senate and the House are mandating the use oftable with information.  We’ve met wonderful people and look electronic medical records. Both bills empower the Divisionforward to working with them. of Insurance to regulate providers who get “unreasonable” compensation and to regulate insurers who raise premiumsWe now have a list of over three dozen names to follow up and without justification or who pay different prices tohave been making appointments. We have identified several large different providers for the same services. Other paymentevents where we want to set up an information table. Over the reforms such as bundled payments, pay for performance,coming months, we will be talking with city councilors, religious global payments and shared savings are underleaders, community activists and people all over the city. We are consideration. Both bills promote preventive care,not surprised that most people are reluctant “to jump on board expansion of the number of primary care providers andright away.” As stated above, most of the folks are hearing about transparency in pricing of services.Mass-Care and the Massachusetts single-payer effort for thefirst time; it’s our job to tell them about the healthcare and While some of these policies may reduce costs somewhat,financial benefits of single payer and Improved Medicare for All and the obvious message to everyone involved in healthcareMassachusetts. is that we must make healthcare affordable, it is not clear that all these policies work! There have been several pilotIf you have any contacts in Springfield or would like to get programs on ACOs in the past five years. None of themi n v o l v e d i n t h i s e f f o r t , p l e a s e c o n t a c t J a c k i e W o l f have shown a reduction in health costs. Electronic medical( records are expensive to set up, and here in Massachusetts most systems can’t communicate with each other. Pay for The Boston Campaign performance has thus far been a disaster for physiciansThe Boston Campaign for Single Payer will begin in earnest this because the criteria used by the insurers to tier doctorsmonth with eight interns available to start a vigorous outreach for their “quality” are frequently inaccurate, bureaucraticeffort. We are updating our educational materials and will have and seem more often to promote doctors who cost thethem translated into Spanish and Portuguese. We will be insurers less money rather than doctors who practice goodcontacting our coalition organizations with members in the Boston medicine. Attorney General Martha Coakley has done twoarea to set up talks, rallies and workshops about how a single- in-depth studies on the driving forces behind the rise inpayer system will guarantee medical coverage for all health care costs. She concludes that the price of eachMassachusetts residents and make health care affordable for health service - not the volume of services - is driving upfamilies, businesses and the Commonwealth. Please contact Mass- costs. This contradicts the idea that fee-for-service hasCare if you or a group you belong to would like to have a been the major cost driver.presentation about single-payer healthcare reform. What Massachusetts really needs for cost control is a single-payer healthcare system: simple, universal, equitable, Worcester Next affordable, sustainable - and it works! - Pat BergerWe are gathering contact information, and identifying labor andcommunity leaders to carry on this campaign in New England’ssecond-largest city. Let us know if you can help in any way.
  4. 4. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1 ~ SPRING 2012 Help Needed: Join Our Publicity Committee We need an active Mass-Care Publicity Committee to  achieve our goals to make health care a human right. We need to identify our publicity needs,  develop a thorough publicity plan, and implement it. We need to bring the good news about single-payer health care to everyone in the Commonwealth in a way that will make it easily understood and a household word in order to encourage people to support single-payer health care. We need to be clear, grassroots-oriented, persistent and with a defined visual presence that will give single-payer the publicity it needs. This is a very important effort and we need to put our heads together on it.   Some ideas  I have are: creating a presence by tabling at public events, making our message very, very clear; T shirts, bumper stickers, buttons,Nurses take Chicago by storm on May 18th, demanding a financial transactions tax andimproved Medicare for a!, reflected on the #ont page of the next morning’s Trib. branding, agreeing on our color (same color throughout the state); our own take-away literature; reaching media and organizations, doing National Action presentations to as many groups as possible,Two things are certain on the national healthcare front in the month of visibility, talk shows, letters to the editor, meet andJune: US Representative Jim McDermotts filing of a new bill to greet at Fenway Park, passing out information,facilitate state single-payer systems and the US Supreme Courts temporary tattoos, blimp advertising and so muchverdict on the Affordable Care Act. more. But we need a plan. We also need more volunteers to help with tabling efforts. We may beSpeculation is rife on what the Supreme Court will decide, from able to get some pro bono help with publicity and PR.sustaining PPACA as is to rendering it null and void and opening the doorto state-based law suits against any federal social-service mandate. If Please contact me if you wish to be on thethe individual mandate is ruled unconstitutional, even if it can be committee, or have some ideas and suggestions, orseparated from the rest of the act, the trillion-dollar commercial health want to help with industry is not going to stand for federal regulations whilemissing out on the added millions of captured customers. In peace and solidarity, Maria Termini, Outreach VolunteerBut no matter what the Supreme Court decides, the healthcare crisis 617 928 1544, leafdancer@verizon.netwill continue since the fundamental conflict between health care as abasic human need and social good, and health care as a vehicle forindividual and corporate aggrandizement remains. We must win single- CommonHealth, Volume 6, Number 1:payer, Medicare for all as the next indispensable step on our road to a Director: Benjamin Dayjust healthcare system. Editor: Sandy Eaton Production: Erin ServaesBesides keynoting our Ben Gill gala on April 21st, Mark Dudzic made good Copy: Pat Berger, Sandy Eaton, Bea Mikulecky, Mariause of his visit to Massachusetts, securing the Massachusetts AFL- Termini, Jackie WolfCIO’s recommitment to single payer through visits to its president Photos: Sandy Eaton, Alice SwiftSteve Tolman, to Myles Calvey of IBEW Local 2222 (Verizon workers) Printing compliments of Massachusetts Nurses Associationand to the officers and activists of IUE-CWA Local 201 (GE workers)and the North Shore Labor Council. Universal Health Care Education Fund c/o Mass-CareThe Labor Campaign for Single Payer will be convening a strategy session 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02111in DC on June 26th, digesting the developments outlined above and doing P: 617-723-7001, F: 617-723-7002some targeted lobbying. - Sandy Eaton