Massachusetts State Senate Takes Major Step Toward Single-Payer Health Care

On November 9, the Massachusetts State Senate voted to bring the Commonwealth one step closer to more affordable, accessible, and high quality health care. The Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) that charges the state with measuring the impact a single-payer system would have on the cost and delivery of health care in Massachusetts. The amendment was adopted as part of a larger health care reform bill under consideration by the Senate.


“The drawbacks of our fragmented healthcare system are increasingly obvious,” said Senator Cyr. “Quality of care is stratified, coverage and cost vary widely, and uncertainty in the marketplace causes real anxiety for families and small businesses. The current sick-care system has neglected many and, worse, costs more than anywhere else in the world. We can’t wait. This amendment moves the ball forward on transitioning Massachusetts to a single payer system in a real and responsible way. Once again, Massachusetts leads the nation on health care for all.” 


Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) co-sponsored Senator Cyr’s amendment and spoke in support of the amendment on the Senate floor.


“If we’re serious about providing quality healthcare to all residents, and reducing healthcare costs, the best way to achieve that is by implementing a single payer model,” said Senator Eldridge, the lead sponsor on legislation (S.619) that will establish a single payer health care model in Massachusetts. “We have come a long way since I filed this amendment 5 years ago. People are tired of the stranglehold that profit-driven insurance companies have on medical care, and I’m heartened by the growing momentum behind the single payer movement across the state. I’m grateful to Senate President Rosenberg for his leadership, and want to thank Senator Cyr for filing this amendment to S.2202.”


It’s important to have a thorough cost analysis on single payer, including how it would compare to the current profit-driven system. Thorough analysis will show that single payer will save money, while guaranteeing care for all residents.


The amendment requires the state’s non-partisan Health Policy Commission to assess the potential performance and impact of a single-payer health care system. The state would collect data through the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) in order to develop a “single-payer benchmark,” the projected total cost of providing healthcare to all residents of Massachusetts. CHIA, the Health Policy Commission, and the Division of Insurance would then be responsible for compiling a report on the performance of the single payer benchmark as compared to actual state spending on healthcare. If the benchmark is determined to outperform actual health care spending, the Health Policy Commission would be charged with submitting a “Single Payer Healthcare Implementation Plan” to the Legislature for consideration.


This bill calls upon the Health Policy Commission to compare the actual health care costs in Massachusetts, for three years, against a model of health care costs using a single payer plan. Furthermore, if the single payer plan is shown to be a better approach- providing high quality care with access to all and savings – the Legislature would be required to start the process to enact legislation for a single payer plan.


“This is truly a huge progressive step forward for the Commonwealth and will help set the stage for the nation,” said Executive Director of MassCare Ture Turnbull. Mass-Care, the statewide campaign fighting for the creation of a single payer healthcare system has been working for this for the last 22 years. “The last time this language was debated in the Senate was in 2012 and lost 15-22. This victory shows not only how far the Senate has come to progressive values but also where the conversation is across the Commonwealth. I want to thank Senator Cyr, Senator Eldridge, Senate President Rosenberg and all the advocates in Massachusetts fighting for healthcare justice.”


Massachusetts currently spends more on health care than any other state in the nation. In 2016, the state spent $59 billion statewide on health care. Premiums for employers and individuals have increased 12% in the last five years, while benefits have either decreased or remained the same. The elevated costs have not necessarily translated to increased access to higher quality health care.


The action empowers the state’s healthcare experts to extensively and impartially study the potential benefits and drawbacks of a single-payer system. Healthcare costs are continuing to strain the budgets of working families, businesses, and working families.  The Senate has continued to push for reforms to the current system through diligent research, stakeholder engagement, and legislation.  The group of Senators who drafted the legislation spent the last year meeting with officials from seven states, healthcare experts, and stakeholders to examine best practices while lowering costs and improving outcomes.

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