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LISTEN LIVE: All Things Considered


Single-Payer Rumblings In Mass. Legislature

This article is more than 8 years old.
The Massachusetts State House
The Massachusetts State House

The dominant story about Obamacare right now is the technical debacle of the Website, but you'll also find an occasional bit of this sub-theme among the punditry: The flaws of Obamacare will push the country further toward a single-payer system like Canada's. (Exhibit #1 from The Los Angeles Times: Health Law's Ailments Can Be Cured By Single-Payer System.)

So it's a particularly interesting moment to see a report by Matt Murphy of the State House News Service that begins like this:


STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 22, 2013…. Massachusetts might not be ready to adopt a single-payer health care system but advocates on Tuesday, including a number of progressive lawmakers, suggested it might only be a matter of time.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, testified before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in favor of two bills he has filed this session to implement a universal Medicare plan in Massachusetts (S 515), or to take the more incremental step of creating a public health insurance option (S 514) to give consumers a taste.

"As much as we've made great advances here in Massachusetts and covered nearly all people, there are still some deep flaws in our health care system," Eldridge said. "A single-payer model is a more efficient system, better health care options and something employers prefer because they no longer have to provide health care."

Asked if he thought either proposal had a chance of winning approval, Eldridge said, "No. I don't. I think what's happening now is single-payer advocates are engaging the business community."


.....Rep. Thomas Sannicandro, an Ashland Democrat, filed a bill (S 572) to require the state to conduct a study benchmarking current state spending on health care against projected costs under a single-payer system. "Does this save money?" Sannicandro asked.

The Sannicandro bill is similar to an amendment filed by Eldridge last year during the health care cost containment debate that would have instructed the administration to develop a single-payer model for the Legislature to review if costs over a period of years were shown to be less under a single-payer system than the current multi-payer private insurance model.

Though it failed, Eldridge's amendment won 15 votes in the increasingly progressive Senate, where Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, a single payer bill supporter, is on track to succeed Senate President Therese Murray.

You need a subscription to the State House News Service to read the whole piece. But worth following, no? Massachusetts certainly has not seemed like it was heading toward a single-payer system in the past, but if it shifts in that direction, might that presage a similar direction for the nation?

This program aired on October 23, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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