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Posted by Steve Walsh on Apr 18th, 2019 9:56am

By MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh

As the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) and its member hospitals and healthcare systems continue to work with policymakers to improve affordability and enhance high-quality patient care, we strongly support the tenets of universal healthcare coverage and maintaining a robust system of patient access. However, we are opposed to "Medicare for All," as it could endanger the collective success we have achieved in Massachusetts and inhibit access and harm healthcare quality across the country.

The Commonwealth serves as a paragon of healthcare reform and universal access. The combination of our statewide policies and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped to secure health insurance coverage for 97 percent of Massachusetts residents – the highest rate in the nation. At the same time, our costs are growing more slowly than the national average and we are consistently beating ambitious cost containment benchmarks while offering some of the highest levels of quality patient care in the United States. Coverage expansion has allowed us to direct our focus on equitable access, population health management, and other targeted investments in social determinants of health that lead to improved quality of life and better outcomes.

MHA urges policymakers to prioritize preserving and expanding the gains that have been made nationally through the ACA. Despite delivering promising results in many states, not every area of the country has been able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this comprehensive package of policies. Even more disturbing, efforts to dismantle the ACA continue through funding cutbacks coupled with ongoing legal and regulatory challenges. Proposals such as "Medicare for All" carry significant risk for our complex system of patients, healthcare providers, and taxpayers. We should instead focus our attention on stabilizing the ACA.

Medicare is an essential program for seniors and disabled Americans. It is successful because we all depend on it – every elder American is eligible, regardless of their financial and health status. Because of its importance, its support remains a national priority. The long term effect of Medicare expansion comes with the risk of an underfunded program, resulting in a two-tiered system of care – middle-class and low-income elders would struggle with limited coverage, while wealthy Americans could supplement the available benefit. We fear that the many proposals grouped under the "Medicare for All" banner put the viability of the program – which is already strained – directly at risk. These proposals could also endanger providers' ability to continue offering services, thereby endangering patients' access to care.

Without doubt, more work needs to be done to improve care delivery, to close the coverage and access gaps that remain, and to make healthcare more affordable and sustainable. But, "Medicare for All" is not the answer. As we've learned in Massachusetts, there is no single solution that will cure the many challenges of our complex healthcare system. Instead, we should focus on securing and building upon all that is currently working. Let's defeat the challenges to the ACA, make the necessary refinements, and secure its full implementation nationwide.

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