ATTLEBORO — Bringing Medicare for All to Massachusetts would require tax increases on everyone, but the author of legislation to make it a reality says it would also save consumers the cost of insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, spoke to about 35 people Tuesday night at a forum at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church organized by state Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro.
Sabadosa said that in the long run Medicare for All, or single-payer health care, would be cheaper and increase access to care for everyone in Massachusetts.
It would replace private health insurance, have state government pay medical bills and, without private insurance and a large billing department in hospitals, administrative costs would be much less, she said.
As Sabadosa was advocating for the system, the Democratic presidential candidates were debating a similar proposal for the entire country in a nationally televised debate.
The proposed system, Sabadosa said, is not socialize medicine, as critics charge. The government would be acting as the insurance company and not the care provider, she said.
“This is not socialized medicine. We are not talking about the state hiring your doctor,” Sabadosa said.
The taxes to pay for it would be 7.5 percent per worker on employers, 2.5 percent on individuals, and 10 percent on unearned income. The first $30,000 of income would be exempt from the taxes.
After the forum, Sabadosa said that although Massachusetts has nearly universal coverage with health insurance, the high cost of deductibles and co-pays discourages many people from getting the treatment they need.
“If you can’t afford health care, then you don’t have access to health care,” she said.
Sabadosa was one of five speakers at the forum who all spoke in favor of Medicare for All and outlined problems with the complexity and cost of the current system.
The other speakers were Hawkins, state Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, Katie Murphy of Massachusetts Nurses Association and Reynold Spadoni of Community Visiting Nurses Association.
Sabadosa said she and others are touring the state explaining the proposal and listening to criticism in order to make it better.
One question came from Roy Belcher, who asked about Vermont’s discarded experiment with Medicare for All.
Sabadosa said her group has studied the Vermont situation and found proponents there were not up-front about costs, did not reach out to providers adequately, and the government was not fully committed to making it work.
She said supporters of her bill are trying to address all those issues and state plainly how much taxes would have to increase.
Two questions from the audience were about how the system would work for Attleboro residents who go to Rhode Island hospitals instead of Boston.
She said in an emergency patients can go to the closest hospital, regardless of state.
Still another question had to do with how the proposed change would impact those who get their health care through the federal Veterans Administration.
Sabadosa said veterans could keep their current care.
The health care issue on the national level has been highly divisive. President Donald Trump is opposed to Medicare for All and also wants to do away with the current system, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Democratic candidates for president are sharply divided over Medicare for All.
Some, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are in favor, but others, including former vice president Joe Biden, want to expand Obamacare instead.