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May 8, 2017

Speaking Out for Health Care Justice

League of Women Voters/Flickr

(League of Women Voters/Flickr)

In the Cape Cod Lounge at the University of Massachusetts Student Union building, 14 individuals shared their stories to a panel of legislators, legislative aides and professionals in the effort to change the health care system in Massachusetts.

“Speak Out for Health Care Justice” was held with the intent to address the issue organized by the League of Women Voters of Amherst, an organization founded in 1920 that promotes an informed and active participation of citizens in government.

Sponsoring organizations of the event includes Graduate Employees Organization UAW Local 2332, Mass-Care: the Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, along with many others.

The program invited individuals to tell their stories relating to the accessibility and cost of health care in Massachusetts. Their testimonies were collected and will be given to the members of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing during the hearings on the Massachusetts single payer bills. These hearings will take place on Dec. 8 at the statehouse in Boston.

Jackie Wolf, one of the event organizers from the League of Women Voters of Amherst, addressed the main concern of healthcare regarding the continual rise of the medical costs in Massachusetts.

“Private insurance companies are raising the deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance, straining the budgets of many Massachusetts residents,” Wolf said. “More people are choosing to forgo visits to physicians and other healthcare providers due to these increasing costs.”

The League of Women Voters support the Massachusetts bill S.579/H.1026 “An Act Establishing Medicare For All,” which would create a single-payer health care system for Massachusetts that guarantees first rate healthcare coverage for every resident of the state.

Flyers were distributed during the event which informed the audience of the bill.

“Massachusetts has the highest per capita health care costs in the country and every year costs go higher and higher. Moving to a Medicare for All “single-payer” system would help control healthcare costs in the long-term while ensuring that every citizen has a right to quality, affordable health care,” the flyer read.

The format of the event consisted of participants writing down and sharing their stories relating to their experience of accessing and paying for healthcare in front of a panel of legislators and professionals. Gerald Friedman, UMass professor of economics, JM Sorrell, ombudsman program director for Highland Valley Elder Services and Massachusetts senator Jamie Eldridge, the lead sponsor of bill S.579, sat on the panel.

Retired UMass professor Stephen Jefferson spoke in front of the panel about his experience when he was hospitalized and put in a wheelchair. His hospital sent his bill to an incorrect address.

Dale Rice, who works as the clinic coordinator for the Free Medical Clinic provided by the Amherst Survival Center, discussed the efforts she and the Free Medical Clinic are making to provide free walk-in clinics.

Others told stories of themselves or loved ones having to go through financial difficulties to make medical payments.

The panelists were given the opportunity to respond to the stories.

“It takes a lot of courage to tell your stories of your friends or family,” Eldridge said.

The senator discussed the difficulty of communicating with business leaders and legislators about the issue of healthcare. The solution that he offered was having the courage to share stories with business leaders and legislators.

The stories were collected and will be given to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing on Dec. 8.

Danny Cordova can be reached at

3 Responses to “Speaking Out for Health Care Justice”
  1. Dennis Byron says:

    This is not a comment on the substance of this legislation but the false-advertising marketing campaign behind its name, “An Act Establishing Medicare for All.” Since the name of this web site is the Daily Collegian, I am going to take a wild guess that most of its readers know very little about United States Medicare. I am on United States Medicare and have been for five years since I turned 65. The law proposed in this legislation is not at all like United States Medicare.

    This bill proposes the government — through taxation — be the single payer for healthcare. United States Medicare by design is a two-payer system (and in practice has evolved over 50 years to typically include four or five payers per beneficiary). The bill contends that it will provide quality, affordable health care. United States Medicare provides neither directly.
    — Quality is only as good as your provider and many providers limit the number of people on Medicare accepted or will not accept Medicare patients at all.
    — As for affordability, United States Medicare is very expensive and despite that expense has large co-pays and deductibles and limits how much it pay out on a beneficiary’s behalf both per incident and lifetime.(which is why Medicare beneficiaries add third, fourth and more mostly private payers to the original two).

    You’re being lied to you by the people that call their proposal Medicare for All (they are probably lying to you about many other things not mentioned in this article too).

  2. Alice Swift says:

    It refers to improved Medicare, although I agree that the name is misleading. It is widely acknowledged that there are problems with Medicare as it is. When we advocate for this bill it is always in the context of a single payer system that would not have those flaws.

  3. John May says:

    I was laid off from my job in September of this year. In a flash, we had to deal with a significant reduction of income. No severance, no back pay and those two weeks of vacation time that I did not take? Yeah, gone as well.
    Then the other shoe dropped. We lost our health insurance. Of course we were eligible for COBRA and I immediately applied for unemployment insurance, but when we deduct the cost of COBRA from the net received from unemployment, not much is left for things like food, heat, electricity.
    What sort of madness is this? How can losing my job be so directly connected to losing my health insurance? The two ought to have nothing to do with each other. In any other developed nation, this would not happen. With COBRA being out of sight, financially, we wandered through the arcane maze of “the market”. Look, if I want to buy a rug or can of beans, I’ll go to “the market” where I can take or leave any offers made. I can last a few more years with the carpet I have and I’ll grow my own beans. Health care is different,. I can’t “shop” for it on equal footing with the seller. I MUST have it and he can live or live without me buying it. It’s well past the time when the USA lifts itself to the same level of care, compassion, and costs of health care that the nations of the developed world provide for their citizens.

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