BOSTON — As state lawmakers eye another run at health-care reforms aimed at helping community hospitals and enabling scope of practice changes while preserving the existing system’s framework, 2nd District U.S. Rep. James McGovern is looking to overhaul the entire health-care system.
Worcester’s McGovern is working this week to add signatures to a nationwide single-payer health-care petition he is circulating with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon “to get America moving in a better direction and ensure coverage for every last person living in America.” The congressman is getting help from groups like the Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Left Action, Medicare For All PAC, and Progressive Democrats Of America.
“It’s time for a health-care system that prioritizes health care for all Americans — not the profit margins of corporate giants,” McGovern wrote in an email Wednesday, asserting that a single-payer system ensures “access to affordable health care and prescription drugs, doctors and nurses that care for patients, not fight with insurance companies,” and “an end to skyrocketing health-care costs that crush small businesses and entrepreneurs.”
It’s unclear whether the U.S. House will pass a Medicare for all bill, which would be viewed dimly by the Republican-controlled Senate. But a House vote, in concert with the traction the issue is getting among Democrats running for president, would give momentum to the cause and may have electoral ramifications. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said early this year she supports hearings on Medicare for all, which could take place in front of McGovern’s committee, but has not committed to holding a vote.
While debated for years, the idea of a single-payer system has not been adopted in McGovern’s home state, where lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker are talking about revisiting health-care laws this session, but working within the framework of a system backstopped by private insurers and the MassHealth program.
As McGovern, the new U.S. House Rules Committee chairman, knocks the “political stranglehold of the for-profit health care industry,” the Health Care Financing Committee on Beacon Hill this session will be led by new chairs, Rep. Jen Benson of Lunenburg and Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington. Health insurance is a requirement under a 2006 state law, leading to a high insured rate, but families, businesses and employers continue to struggle with costs.
Since 2006, costs have continued to grow and the state’s massive MassHealth program has grown to consume about 40 percent of all state spending. Per capita health care spending in 2017 was $8,907, according to the Center for Health Information and Analysis.
“I think right now we’re focused on universal health care access and that’s what we need to be continuing to strive for here in Massachusetts. We have to make sure costs are contained and there’s still a lot more we can do around that,” Benson told the News Service following her appointment last week.
Benson added, “As far as Medicare for all, I think there’s a big federal conversation happening around that and I think that’s the right place for it. I think right now we have a very vibrant and robust health care system here in Massachusetts that we need to not only protect and maintain but make sure it’s accessible to everyone.”
Before House-Senate talks collapsed last year, lawmakers were pushing to impose new assessments on insurers and larger hospitals and to share new revenues with community hospitals.