November 8, 2017

Senate to revisit single-payer plan that narrowly failed in 2012

Lawmakers are beginning to debate a plan for single-payer healthcare in Massachusetts that narrowly failed in 2012.

It's been five years since the Massachusetts Senate last waded into the issue of single-payer health care, and debate beginning Wednesday could bring the topic back to the floor.

An amendment to the 100-page health care reform bill up for discussion Wednesday and Thursday would charge the state with measuring its annual healthcare spending against the projected costs of a single-payer system that "offers continuous, comprehensive, affordable coverage for all Massachusetts residents regardless of income, assets, health status, or availability of other health coverage." If single-payer proved to be less expensive, officials would have to develop a plan to put that model into place.

A similar single-payer benchmark plan was defeated in May 2012 as part of debate on health care cost control legislation. The full Senate has not debated single-payer since then, though bills to move the state in that direction have been filed each session and the idea has gained currency in Washington.

Single-payer opponents have argued that patients may lose choices under such a system, driving up costs, while supporters say the current system involving both public and private insurance is failing to adequately cover all people while also overburdening the budgets of governments, businesses and families.

The national conversation around single-payer has shifted since 2012, driven in part by the prominence U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont brought to the issue in his presidential bid last year.

Both U.S. senators from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, have signed on to Sanders' bill to create a national single-payer system. Setti Warren and Jay Gonzalez, Democrats running for governor, have called for single-payer at the state level.


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