Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts, Let’s Lead on Healthcare

by Erik Fogg

I remember when Massachusetts was the nation’s progressive leader. It was an exciting time, full of hope and energy.

The best example I can think of was 2004, when as a state we took a stand that marriage equality was a non-negotiable right. I stood with my fellow Bay Staters outside the State House and showed my support for the legislature when it decided that marriage equality was here to stay.

I felt proud to be a Bay Stater that day. Eventually, the rest of the United States followed suit.

I remember when we passed healthcare reform in 2006–under the leadership of a Republican governor, no less. It served as the inspiration for the Affordable Care Act–again, the rest of the nation followed the Commonwealth. I was proud to be a Bay Stater.

These days it feels like we’re missing some of that energy. Perhaps it’s been replaced by complacency (“at least we’re not Texas or some other state”), or just by impotent rage. I see a lot more complaining than I did in the 2000s. I see a lot less in the way of leadership. We used to build with stones, now we throw rocks.

I don’t know why, but we’ve collectively decided we’re just fine with looking to DC to solve our problems. It’s not solving our problems, so now we complain. Complaining never worked in the past–we led, and DC followed.

I want that leadership back. I want that energy back.

In 2010, Bay Staters voted with a 67% majority on a ballot question for a single-payer system. In 2016, about half of Massachusetts Democrats cast their primary vote for Bernie Sanders, whose platform centered around Universal Healthcare. Bay Staters knew then that the Affordable Care Act didn’t solve the problems we needed to solve in healthcare. Costs continue to increase–already far higher than any other nation on earth–and show no signs of stopping. Our outcomes are worse than our more competitively-priced peers. A majority of Americans now support a single payer system–in Massachusetts, the support is certainly higher.

But after Bernie lost, we seemed to have just dropped the ball. DC didn’t give us Universal Healthcare. Now we’re waiting for an administration that will.

But why? Why are we waiting on DC? We know how to lead. Massachusetts residents are more than ready to make the move. We were ready 8 years ago.

There’s no good reason for Massachusetts to wait for DC. Goodness knows it hasn’t worked before. While we wait, our citizens are declaring bankruptcy and, worse, not getting the care they need.

When the Massachusetts legislature finds the courage and aspiration to lead, to do the hard work to enact single payer here, we’re going to show the Union that they don’t have to wait either. As with our leadership on marriage equality 14 years ago and our leadership in healthcare reform 12 years ago, when we lead, we’ll see other states follow… and then DC, in its time, will see the writing on the wall and catch up.

History tells us it won’t happen the other way. So let’s buckle up and lead on healthcare.

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