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Bill Weber of Portland and Marie Follayttar of South Portland unfurl a see-through banner at the start of a rally at Lincoln Park in Portland on Saturday as part of a national effort to demand improved and expanded Medicare for everyone. Follayttar is the director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership. (Photo: Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Massachusetts Needs Medicare for All

In the United States, we spend $6,000 more per person for healthcare than other developed nations. Even with that price tag, the current system puts nearly all life-saving and health-producing care out of financial reach.

Dr. Tami Gouveia

When I was in 8th grade, my 19-year old cousin was in a horrible car crash that put her in a coma for over a year. It left her without the use of her legs and limited use of her arms. It was devastating for my family, especially for my aunt and uncle. But, because the accident happened in Canada, my aunt and uncle were able to focus on caring for my cousin without the added burden of worrying about how they would pay for the costly medical interventions needed to save my cousin's life. She still requires around-the-clock care, 34 years later.

All of these problems could be resolved if we invested in a humane, person-centered, single-payer healthcare system.

The cost of this needed care would have been impossible for my family to manage had the accident occurred in the United States. In Canada, her care was covered by their single-payer healthcare system. There was no added burden of worrying about going bankrupt in order to pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills spent on surgeries, nursing care, rehabilitative care, and assisted living.

Every one of us has faced a moment in our lives, or in our loved ones' lives, where we've had to ration care or go without it entirely because the cost is too great. Working families struggle far too often to afford their co-pays and deductibles. Mothers delay mammograms; working dads skip cardiac rehab after a heart attack; young adult gig workers with diabetes stretch their insulin. Our elders go without access to recreation that strengthens muscles and bones which can prevent falls and prolong life.

I, myself, was faced with this reality twelve years ago as a single mother with young children and I had to choose to skip medical tests that were important due to my family's medical history. I was lucky, but many are not, and no one should be forced to gamble with their lives.

In the United States, we spend $6,000 more per person for healthcare than other developed nations. Even with that price tag, the current system puts nearly all life-saving and health-producing care out of financial reach. As a result of limited access to preventative services, the necessary rationing of care, and a system that separates physical health from mental and behavioral healthcare, we have significantly lower life expectancies and far too many deaths of despair, such as suicide, substance use disorder, and alcoholic liver disease.

This is not health care – this is a health racket.

Even for folks with good health plans through their employer, deductibles are rising faster than wages, which have all but stagnated. Surprise medical billing persists, due to a complicated and confusing system of out-of-network providers. And, after COVID-19, many learned the hard way that employer-based insurance can disappear in an instant.

Our current healthcare system also burdens our small businesses ability to innovate, and the financial vitality of our municipalities. Researchers estimate that our municipalities would save millions under a single-payer healthcare system. Cities like Lowell could save $28 million, Waltham $44 million, Cambridge $50 million, and Springfield $44 million. Small employers also face the difficulties of attracting highly skilled employees who opt to work for larger corporations because larger companies have a stronger negotiating position with insurance companies than do smaller mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that contribute to thriving downtowns and our communities.

All of these problems could be resolved if we invested in a humane, person-centered, single-payer healthcare system. For years, federal representatives have introduced some form of a single-payer health care bill. But with the federal government more gridlocked than ever, we can't wait for them to act. Right now, Massachusetts has the chance to pass a statewide Medicare For All approach to healthcare financing that would benefit our families, small businesses, municipalities, government payers, and healthcare providers.

The policy would provide health care for all Massachusetts residents and individuals who work more than 20 hours per week in the state without premiums, co-pays, or deductibles. It's time to stop treating healthcare like it's a commodity. It's time to end the need for GoFundMe pages, and hours of haggling with insurance providers to cover care. Right now, it is time for Medicare for All.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Dr. Tami Gouveia

Dr. Tami Gouveia is a Massachusetts State Representative of the 14th Middlesex District and candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

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