Thursday, April 17, 2014

In a remarkable show of disinterest by the mainstream media in Massachusetts, it appears that only the Associated Press cared enough about Don Berwick's proposal for a single payer plan to give it the attention of a reporter. Here's the story:

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic candidate for governor Don Berwick on Wednesday called for a ‘‘single health care payment system’’ for Massachusetts.

Berwick, who headed the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for 17 months, is one of five Democrats, two Republicans and three independent candidates seeking the state’s chief executive post.

Speaking at Boston University School of Medicine, he praised President Barack Obama’s health care law and the 2006 Massachusetts law that inspired it, adding that Massachusetts can again lead the nation.

But, he said, the state and country can do better by essentially expanding Medicare, which covers the elderly, to include all residents regardless of age.

‘‘We can create and manage a simplified, transparent, efficient, and fully accountable single health care payment system in Massachusetts and we can make it work for the people,’’ Berwick said in a prepared copy of the speech.

That ‘‘single-payer’’ option has long been a dream of liberal Democrats, but has also been considered a political impossibility in a divided Congress.

It was Berwick’s praise for aspects of the British single-payer health care system that marked him for criticism from congressional Republicans, who said it showed his affinity for big government programs. They blocked his confirmation as Obama’s permanent head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after his temporary appointment.

Berwick on Wednesday brushed off the criticism of those he called ‘‘naysayers’’ and said a single-payer system would have less ‘‘waste, confusion, complexity, and opacity’’ than the current system, which he said forces patients and doctors to spend time and money sorting out varying coding systems and billing rules.

By contrast, he said, Medicare spends just 1 percent on overhead.

It is ironic that the case made by lots of Republicans against Don for the CMS job was, in fact, based in part on his position on this issue.  Back then, recall, "Republicans . . . seized on remarks he made praising Britain’s National Health Service as an 'example' for the United States to follow." Of course, the Republicans dramatically overstated the issue and would have found any reason to be against him, but time has shown it to be the case that Don actually does support an NHS-like single payer system.

Now, the question is whether this issue will resonate in Massachusetts.


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