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Non-Binding 'Medicare For All' On Ballots

Sure, Massachusetts is leading the nation in health care reform. But for some residents — quite a few, actually — it hasn't led far enough.

Tomorrow, the ballots in 14 districts will include non-binding questions on whether the state should move to a "single-payer" system, also known as "Medicare For All." To wit:

Shall the representative from this district be instructed to support legislation that would establish health care as a human right regardless of age, state of health or employment status, by creating a single payer health insurance system like Medicare that is comprehensive, cost effective, and publicly provided to all residents of Massachusetts?

With everyone still adjusting to state and federal health reform, why put the single-payer question on the ballot now?

Jon Weissman, a spokesman for the single-payer campaign in western Massachusetts, says that "it's one part of a strategy to put together a legislature that will vote for single-payer." A single-payer bill has been introduced repeatedly in the legislature for more than a decade, he said, and has always gotten plenty of sponsors, but never passed.

These days, he said, a powerful argument in its favor is that a single-payer system would be cheaper than the current health care system in Massachusetts. Also, other states are looking into single-payer plans, and "Massachusetts doesn't want to not be a leader!"

But the "core answer," he said, is that the ballot measure is "one of many tactics we use in order to keep the issue alive."

In past years, such measures have passed overwhelmingly, but in famously liberal enclaves like Amherst, Jon said. This year, the districts that will vote on the measure are more middle-of-the-road, politically.

Hoping to vote on it? The question will be on the ballot in these districts:
2nd Berkshire (Ashfield, Becket, Bernardston, Buckland, Cheshire, Colrain, Cummington, Dalton, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Leyden, Middlefield, New Ashford, Northfield, Peru, one precinct of Pittsfield, Plainfield, Richmond, Shelburne, Washington and Windsor); 4th Berkshire (Alford, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Otis, Sandisfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, West Stockbridge, Blandford, Chester, Tolland, Hampden); 1st Franklin (Belchertown, Chesterfield, Conway, Deerfield, Goshen, Huntington, Leverett, Montague, New Salem, Pelham, Shutesbury, Sunderland, Wendell, Whately, Williamsburg and Worthington); 8th Hampden (much of Chicopee).

This program aired on November 1, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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