Speaking Out for Health Care Justice

By Danny Cordova

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 [email protected]