My Turn: Change is not scary — The present system is

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Published: 2/3/2021 4:54:08 PM

In these days of worry about the COVID virus, we turn to our health care institutions for help. For many, the access to health care is not an easy path.

We are burdened with a system that relies on a complicated patchwork of programs both public and private. It’s a difficult system to navigate.

We see that at a time where everyone needs vaccinations, our system is not so good at reaching everyone in a organized way. The public health workers just like the hospital workers are stretched to the limit.

Trying to figure out how and when we can get vaccinated is complicated by a shortage of the vaccine, and confusion over distribution. I do not mean to blame the health care workers — just the opposite — it’s the system that’s to blame. It’s the system we need to change.

The health care workers are great. So as busy as our elected representatives are in helping with the immediate crises, we need to ask them to pay attention and work on a larger solution.

As a new legislative session begins in Massachusetts, a new bill for single payer health care has been introduced. It’s called “Improved Medicare for All.”

The list of co-sponsors statewide is growing and we can be proud of our local legislators for agreeing to sign on to be co-sponsors. This legislation is being introduced by the Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, familiarly known as Mass-Care and by State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa and State Sen. Jame Eldridge. Please thank your representatives for their support of this bill.

The passage of original Medicare opened up health care to everyone over 65 years old. Remarkably, Medicare also opened up hospitals and health care in general to those who had been discriminated against and denied health services in the past.

There were Black hospitals and white hospitals in the South and they certainly were not equal. I recommend the film, The “Power to Heal,” which describes the rollout of original Medicare and the resulting integration of health care in the U.S.

Unfortunately today we are seeing the closing of many small rural hospitals across the US. These hospitals would be able to stay open if there was a national system dedicated to providing health care for all.

“Improved Medicare for All” would cover every resident of Massachusetts and give us all access to health care no matter what our financial situation. It’s called a single payer system — because there is only one payer that would replace all the different insurance coverages and state and federal programs that currently exist.

No longer would workers have insurance premiums deducted from their paychecks, and there would be no need for co-pays and deductibles. In place of insurance there would be a payroll tax shared by employers and employees.

If you have Medicare, you know you just have to give your provider your Medicare card and they will bill Medicare for your treatment. Improved Medicare for All would do away with the need for supplemental coverage and expand the services covered. Billing would be simplified.

Savings would accrue from this simplification for employers, workers and providers. This would be a huge change — a change that we now see clearly that we need — especially during the health care crisis that we are now experiencing. Sometimes change is scary, this time the existing system is the scary experience and the new system would make daily life less scary for all.

Judith Atkins is on the Mass-Care Board of Directors. Greenfield.


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