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UMass health care forum panelists tout single-payer system

By Lonnie Shekhtman
Worcester Telegram, April 16, 2015

WORCESTER — A small community forum on health care Wednesday night, hosted by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, aimed to tackle the state's growing health care costs.

The event was part of a series on "an ailing model" of health care, sponsored by Mass-Care, a membership organization advocating for a single-payer health care system in Massachusetts, and advocacy groups Physicians for a National Health Program and Students for a National Health Program.

"We're an outlier by so much," on health cares costs, compared with other countries that have universal health care, such as England, Switzerland and Germany, said Benjamin Day, executive director of Healthcare Now, based in Philadelphia, and an expert panelist at Wednesday's event.

State Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, another panelist, is a co-sponsor of legislation to create a single-payer health care system in the state, which, according to his bill — not yet assigned to a committee — will save the state nearly 16 percent on health care costs.

Mr. Eldridge described this type of health care model as a fund controlled by a state agency or nonprofit organization, instead of dozens of private insurers, and supplied partly by replacing current employer and employee premium payments with a payroll tax.

Panelists conceded that getting a system like this into place here, with a large and influential health care industry, is a major challenge.

"Part of the reason for these forums is us, especially as policy-makers, trying to better explain (the model)," Mr. Eldridge said to the audience of mostly medical school students.

He said that a single-payer system would be more efficient and thus help the state address the needs of communities, dispatching more doctors and nurses to parts of the state that really need them.

The event comes on the heels of Gov. Charles D. Baker Jr.'s proposed budget for next year, introduced last month, which recommends curbing the costs of MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program for low-income adults, which is expected to grow in cost by 16 percent in fiscal year 2016.

The organizers hosted a similar forum at Harvard Medical School in Boston in March, and will take it to other locations in the coming months, including Lawrence.

http://www.telegram.com/article/20150416/NEWS/304169802/101237