Health Justice for Boston ~ Number 14. February 2015

Health Care, or Lack Thereof

Shrinking Access to Needed Services

Thank you for coming to Braintree and the South Shore to listen to our many burning issues. Here's my thinking on steps needed to reform our essentially dysfunctional healthcare system in Massachusetts, highlighting six pieces of legislation already filed and awaiting bill numbers, and indicating additional areas in need of attention.

The recent closing of Quincy Medical Center by Steward Health Care, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cerberus Capital Management, throws the cracks in our system into stark relief.

Since at least the enactment of Chapter 495 in 1991, market forces, enhanced by rounds of deregulation and privatization, have been magically expected to provide access to quality affordable care. Instead we've witnessed cutbacks, closures and mergers, with the net effect of creating haves and have-nots.

Diverse working-class communities have borne the brunt. The closures of Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center, North Adams Regional Hospital, Radius Specialty Hospital and Quincy Medical Center are the most recent glaring examples of this. The reforms of 2006 and 2012 not withstanding, we've witnessed the survival of the fattest, with a devil-take-the-hindmost attitude prevailing.

As it stands right now, an executive sitting in an office on Park Avenue has the power to shut down one sixth of Massachusetts acute-care hospitals with impunity - by pulling the plug on Steward. The Commonwealth must be prepared to take charge, either through existing agencies or new entities established with this intent.

And only a single-payer financing mechanism will allow Massachusetts and its people to save money while assuring universal access to affordable care. Additional measures are required to assure safety and quality. An appropriate level of staffing by RNs and assistive personnel is essential, as well as conscious measures to overcome the legacy of disparities and neglect.

  • An Act Relative to Patient Safety (Senator Pacheco).
  • The Hospital Profit Transparency & Fairness Act (Senator Moore).
  • An Act Relative to Closing of Essential Services (Senator Flanagan).
  • An Act to Ensure Effective Cost Control (Senator Wolf).
  • An Act Establishing Medicare for All (Senator Eldridge).
  • An Act Further Regulating Hospitals (Senator Tarr)

Testimony before the Senate listening tour in Braintree on February 25th by Sandy Eaton. Come to RCC on March 4th to be heard!

State Senate Listening Tour
Metro Boston Forum
March 4, 2015
Wednesday @ 6:30 PM
Roxbury Community College
Media Arts Center
1234 Columbus Avenue
Roxbury, Massachusetts

At its first session this year the state senate voted to begin the year with a listening tour so that Senators can hear from people across the Commonwealth about what issues people consider most important, and what the most important challenges are in local communities and statewide. Testify effectively to shape how Senators think about these issues.

Boston has erupted in debate about whether to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and what that could cost. Some expect the Olympics to spur development. Boston 2024 executives suggest it could bring over 100,000 “jobs,” but an unspecified share would be volunteer. Critics, including No Boston Olympics and NoBoston2024, argue that preparing this September’s bid and the Olympics themselves will divert money and attention from our people’s pressing needs and worry that other Olympic cities have experienced gentrification, sex-trafficking and harsh policing. A transparency bill filed by two Boston representatives, Mike Moran and Aaron Michlewitz, would require public disclosure of all Olympic-related private and public expenditures and create a state oversight commission. Urging all our state reps and senators to pass that bill would help make possible an informed decision. - Debbie Socolar

Close the Gap for Low Income Elderly

On January 16, over a hundred Seniors from throughout Massachusetts gathered at the State House to announce the filing of a pair of bills designed to “close the gap” in health care that has grown over the last few years and make healthcare more affordable for seniors. Representative Denise Garlick, RN and Senator Dan Wolf filed bills to expand MassHealth for low income seniors and to make Medicare more affordable for more than half the seniors in the Commonwealth.

Currently only seniors who are earning up to 100% of the federal poverty line and have less than $2000 in assets are eligible for MassHealth unless their medical costs reach catastrophic levels. Many Massachusetts workers who rely on MassHealth as a safety net find themselves in a health free-fall when they turn 65 and no longer qualify for the Commonwealth's version of the federal Medicaid program. Medicare, open to all 65 and older, does not cover dental, eye, or hearing and is much more expensive for basic health coverage with premiums, deductibles and copayments adding up to an average out of pocket cost of $467.00 a month.

Since seniors spend about three times more of their income on health costs (15% vs. 5%) compared to people 19-64, these bills are vitally important. They will make a big difference in income for all seniors straining to balance their budgets. That helps explain the enthusiastic turnout by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council on January 16th where seniors personally turned over 4000 cards supporting the legislation over to Governor Baker, and won over 55 Senators and Representatives as co-sponsors to at least one of the bills. Health Justice for Boston was one of the first organizational supporters of the Close the Gap Campaign and will continue its efforts until the bills become law. - John Ratliff

What is Healthcare Justice?

  • Access: Can you get the care you need?
  • Affordability: Will you go bankrupt if you do?
  • Quality: Will you survive your encounter?
  • Equality: Do you meet special barriers to care?

Directory

For more information on health care as a right, not a commodity:

Mass-Care   Healthcare NOW!   Labor Campaign for Single Payer

To navigate the current system:

Boston Mayor’s HealthLine @ 617-534-5050

Health Care For All - Massachusetts
Consumer Health HelpLine @ 800-272-4232

Massachusetts Health Connector
Customer Support @ 877-623-6765

For more information, contact:

Quentin Davis @ 617-553-2949 or davisquestin@gmail.com
Sandy Eaton @ 617-510-6496 or sandyern@comcast.net

Health Justice for Boston is archived on Seachange Bulletin.
Sponsor: Health Justice for Boston