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My Turn: Vote for single-payer health care

Medicare for All an opportunity for everyone in Massachusetts to get full-coverage insurance

  • ATKINS and WORGAFTIK



Thursday, May 31, 2018

What would you think if we told you that there is a health plan that would cover you and your family for less than you are paying now, save your town or school system significant money, and provide you with more comprehensive health care? Crazy, right? Well, read on because we are going to demonstrate how single-payer health care, also known as Medicare for All, can do just that.

A study by Gerald Friedman, professor of economics at UMass Amherst, estimates that the single-payer health plan we describe below would save 15.75 percent of the current health care spending in the state by eliminating administrative waste in our complex private insurance system. Additional savings would come from the negotiating power of a single system to get lower prices for prescription drugs and medical supplies.

Recently, the Town of Leyden did a cost analysis that compared current health insurance costs paid with the cost of a payroll tax funded health care tax. The Pioneer Valley Regional School District would save $1,185,809 and the Town of Leyden’s share of those savings would be $67,504.28. In addition, all school employees would have a smaller health care deduction from their pay and no more co-pays and deductibles. Imagine if these savings were spread across the commonwealth.

So how does all this magic happen? A single-payer health insurance plan would cover everyone in Massachusetts, young and old, including those on Medicare and Medicaid. It would cover all medically necessary care, preventive care and dental care. There would be no premiums, no deductibles, no co-pays or co-insurance. This is exactly the kind of plan that is throughout Europe, Canada, and Australia. They have made it work for decades. Why can’t we?

We hear the voices now. “This is going to cost me a fortune.” Nope. The employer and employee premiums that now come out of your paycheck would be replaced with a payroll tax. Neither you nor your employer would have to deal with private insurance companies. The tax would be: 7.5 percent paid by the employer and 2.5 percent paid by the employee.

Let’s say that you earn $40,000 per year. Your employer would pay $3,000 a year to the state insurance trust fund in regular payments. You would pay a total of $1,000 over the course of the year, or $83.33 per month. If you are the breadwinner of the family, that is all you would pay to cover yourself, your spouse and children. If your spouse is also employed, your spouse would pay 2.5 percent on his/her income. That’s it.

Whether you need a check-up, an immunization shot, an operation or chemotherapy, you would just show your card to your doctor’s office and they would bill the state insurance trust fund. You would not have to pay a co-pay, or worse, wait for a reimbursement for out of pocket expenses.

It works because everyone is automatically included in the system. Young, healthy people pay into the same system as individuals with serious illnesses. Federal funds from Medicaid and Medicare would be included in the trust fund, as would the payments that seniors pay to Medicare.

What about small business people? If you own a small business and do not provide health insurance for your employees, there will be an additional cost. But you may also find that your employees are not coming to work sick and that they are more reliably present because they can get preventive care rather than waiting until they or a member of their family has to go to the emergency room for treatment.

Employers and self-employed persons would not have the first $30,000 of their incomes taxed. The 10 percent rate would apply after that. So, an employer making $100,000 a year, would pay $7,000 a year because the first $30,000 of income is exempt. At present, family health insurance often costs $1,000 per month or more out of pocket, so this is a better deal even for those in the higher income brackets.

What if you are retired and living off of Social Security and investment income? The 10 percent tax would not be applied to the first $30,000 of investment income and Social Security, pensions, and unemployment benefits would not be taxed at all.

During May, people will be asking you to sign a petition for a non-binding referendum on single payer health care. This is an opportunity for all of us to get health insurance that covers us all equitably and completely. It would be a government run insurance plan covering us all and paid through taxes. It works in most other developed countries in the world, why not here?

The wording will be “Shall the representative of this district be instructed to vote for legislation to create a single-payer system of universal health care that would provide all Massachusetts residents with comprehensive health care coverage including the freedom to choose doctors and other health care professionals, facilities and services, and that would eliminate the role of insurance companies in health care by creating a publicly administered insurance trust fund?”

It’s a mouthful, but that is what was approved by the Massachusetts secretary of state.

Your signature on the petition gets this issue on the ballot so we can all vote on it in November. If the question goes on the ballot, your vote would direct Paul Mark in the 2nd Berkshire District and whoever gets the 1st Franklin seat currently held by Steve Kulik to vote for Medicare for All.

Once again, Massachusetts can take the lead in providing health insurance for its residents. Should it be passed, there are a lot of details that will have to be worked out, but the opportunities are enormous. Everyone, regardless of where they work or what work they do, would have health insurance for all necessary treatment. What a concept.

Want to know more? Contact Judy Atkins at judithga@comcast.net or visit: masscare.org.

Judith Atkins lives in Greenfield and is the chair of the Single Payer Health Care Task Force of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution. Susan Worgaftik lives in Greenfield and is also a member of this task force.