Universal Health Care for Massachusetts:
Amending the State's Constitution
as the First Step
Health care crisis
Our system of health care delivery has shown remarkable adaptability.
We have heard for years of the crises in health care but somehow the system
survives and in many cases thrives. We have seen remarkable achievements
with the extension of health care to children, the disabled, and minority
communities. But we have also tolerated an extraordinary level of inequality
and inefficiency. We allow rationing of high quality health care services
based on income. We spend nearly 40 percent of every health care dollar
on administration, dollars that could better be spent providing direct
care. We have failed to extend the marvelous innovations of health care
to those who work part time, are unemployed, or those whose jobs do not
include health insurance. We have failed to achieve full health value
for the dollars we spend.
Amending the Massachusetts
Constitution to make health care a right
As an essential and necessary first step to resolving the health care
crisis, we have presented an amendment to the constitution of the Commonwealth
to ensure that no resident of the state lacks access to affordable health
insurance coverage for medically necessary medical and mental health services
including prescription drugs and devices.
We understand that changing the fundamental governing document of our
state, the oldest such constitution in the world, is a decision of enormous
importance. We have chosen to present this amendment to our fellow citizens
because we believe there is no better way to begin the process that will
bring health and financial security for all of us. Solving this crisis
requires the simultaneous effective committed participation of all the
varied elements of the health care system. The 71,000 registered voters
from 343 cities and towns across the state that signed this ballot petition
last fall are asking for this commitment.
We have modeled this amendment on the language of the original Constitution
that included education as the responsibility of the state's government.
Like education, health care should be available to all residents of the
We have not prescribed or proscribed any possible solution. Ratification
will clearly and conclusively establish that ensuring access to health
care for every resident, like education, is the fundamental responsibility
of our elected government. Our goal is to use the convening authority
of the government to achieve universal health care insurance coverage.
Where will the money come from to make coverage affordable for everyone?
By putting all the dollars we now spend for care for the uninsured -
care that is often too little, too late and more expensive than it should
be - into the early diagnosis and treatment of disease; from cutting administrative
costs and investing them in direct care; from new revenues generated by
the economic growth. Expanded access to health care will mean new jobs,
higher incomes, a healthier and more productive workforce, more profitable
businesses, and more research and innovation. There are numerous positive
synergies between health and economic growth.
Should Massachusetts embark on such profound reform on its own?
Waiting for a national solution has unacceptable human and economic costs.
We are one of the wealthiest states in the nation and an historic leader
in expanding health care access. Yet we are falling behind states like
Maine and California that have acknowledged dire fiscal consequences of
high uninsurance levels. Should we wait for consensus among states whose
circumstances and commitment to change are so very different? The Commonwealth's
health and competitiveness are on the line. We can solve the problem of
unequal access to health care coverage and reap economic benefits from
Affordable health insurance coverage for all
We have crafted language that is unambiguous and direct. Our fellow state
residents overwhelmingly support universal access to health care. With
the support of the current Constitutional Convention, the voters will
be able to endorse the amendment in 2006. With this commitment, our elected
representatives will be empowered to lead Massachusetts to affordable
health insurance coverage for all.
John D. Goodson M.D. and Barbara Roop PhD., JD
Co-Chairs, Health Care for Massachusetts Campaign
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