On Universal Health Care

I support universal health care access for all.  I will work hard in Congress for a system that guarantees choice of physicians, excellence, affordability and timeliness of care. Every other industrialized nation provides health care for all its citizens and it’s time we provided this basic right to all Americans.

The health care crisis is real and growing.  The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation supporting independent research on health and social issues, recently projected that there will be 47 million uninsured Americans in 2007.  It estimates that an additional 16 million Americans are underinsured.  This study also found that “two of five working-age Americans with annual incomes between $20,000 and $40,000 were uninsured for at least part of the past year.”  Many working and middle class families simply can no longer afford coverage, placing them at risk.  This is completely unacceptable and I’ll work to change it. 

For me, the issue is which universal care system can be put in place most quickly so that we can secure quality health care for every American. I am open to any system that will achieve this quickly, equitably, and cost-effectively. For the 47 million uninsured Americans, the question isn’t single-payer or multi-payer. For them, the question is, how do we get health care coverage for ourselves and our families as soon as possible. Providing them with the access to health care they deserve has to be our first priority. 

The universal health care plan that I favor already has a promising model.  Why not give it a try?  That’s the newly enacted Massachusetts Universal Health Care Plan, which was supported by Deval Patrick when he was a candidate for Governor and that he continues to strongly support today. It also seems to be consistent with what three of the leading Democratic candidates for President — Clinton, Obama, and Edwards — are advocating.  My goal is the implementation of a system that achieves an effective, inclusive health care system.  Why not support the most immediate hope for providing the universal health care that we want to see implemented? 

Niki Tsongas

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  1. So...

    How does this statement jive with what Ms. Tsongas said at the GLAD breakfast?

    I don't see anywhere in here a repudiation or adequate defense of the assertion that the free market controls health care costs.

    Maybe it's just my dislike for rhetorical questions in policy statements, but the tone of this whole piece comes across as a somewhat pandering "sure I agree with you... just trust me!"

    • That's a pretty good point

      I have to admit there's not much in this post I can disagree with. But then, there's not much to disagree with. I guess I kind of assumed that this post would be a sort of stop-gap from previous comments--that it would it would be an opportunity to address very early comments and add to them more specifics.

      The bulk of this post seems to talk about how much of a problem health care is and that universal health care is the solution (it's also the goal). It only talks about solutions in very vague terms that are hard to disagree with. She says she's, "open to any system that will achieve this quickly, equitably, and cost-effectively." That's cool, so am I. But who isn't? And what her preference of systems that get us there? She only gets to that in the final paragraph when she says she favors the Massachusetts Universal Health Care Plan, but then doesn't really talk about that at all, and doesn't really talk about it on a federal level except to say that something like it can be done. I have to imagine that a federal level universal health care program would be significantly different from a statewide Massachusetts program. Or am I wrong in that assumption?

      It's odd because unlike print newspapers (which have limited space), radio or TV (which has limited time), blogs have almost no limit to time or length. You can prepare your blog entry for however long you'd like, run it by however many advisors or staff you'd like, add as many specifics as you like, and make a direct connection to high information voters/volunteers who are likely to choose a candidate in the primary.

      Don't get me wrong--I'm really glad that Ms. Tsongas supports universal health care and the MA universal health care plan. I'm also excited and thankful that she's addressing the blogging community. And I'm well aware that it is way, way, way too early in the primary season to be putting out health care proposals to be nitpicked.

      I just think it's odd that she'd come to BMG to make a post about Universal Health Care, with the implicit understanding that it's in reaction to her earlier comments, and then talk only about the goodness of a quality, universal system.

  2. Hey Niki: Where's the beef?

    Niki,

    In your response, you tell us absolutely NOTHING.  Do you actually have a position on this issue, or do you prefer to just throw empty rhetoric against the wall and hope it sticks?  Perhaps you don't want to restate what you've already said because it is not position shared by many people on BMG.  I keep waiting for some substance from your campaign, but all we've gotten, repeatedly, is a series of slogans like your post above. 

    You note that your "position" is the same as some of our party's most important figures.  Which position is that: that we should have universal health care (duh!), or that we should lean on the private sector?  If it's the latter, I think your words more closely match President Bush's. 

    You've said: "We need to bring in the public sector, private sector and see what happens with the Massachusetts system."  This is strikingly similar to Bush's view that "We believe the private sector is the best delivery of health care."  Are you troubled by this?  Or am I misconstruing your past statements? 

    I have another question.  Is your "view" colored at all by your membership on the board of an HMO?  Perhaps by your new campaign chair being a consultant to the hospital lobby? 

    As I've already observed, I think your Reilly-esque campaign strategy is to pile up establishment endorsements and say as little as possible as you run a five-month long victory lap until the primary.  It is my hope that the district voters can see through this and support a candidate who actually has fresh ideas and a fresh perspective.  Your campaign so far has shown you will provide neither. 

    • What do you think of the other candidates, Winston?

      I'm interested. Really!

      • Some strong candidates, but Eldridge is the strongest

        Hi Bob,

        I'd be happy to share some thoughts on the race if you're interested. 

        As I've said a couple of times, I'm supporting Jamie Eldridge.  Besides agreeing with his views on the war, health care, and labor, I've had the chance to meet Eldridge, and I was very impressed.  He seemed like a tremendous guy, and more importantly (to me), he has a fresh perspective.  Of all the candidates, I look at Eldridge and have no doubt that he would be the best person we could send to Congress.  Sadly, Congress is full of yes-men and women and rubber stamp "leaders" -- in both parties.  I think if Jamie is elected, he won't be a follower and he will be a great leader.  That Jamie voted against the speaker when he first got to the State House impresses me immensely.  Deval is a strong leader because he wants to introduce new ideas into MA's rotting political structure.  I see Jamie as the same type of man. 

        In general, though, I like to get behind candidates based on what kind of general feel I glean off of them.  That is why I am strongly against the Tsongas candidacy.  I question what kind of qualifications Niki has to represent the district.  Clearly, she is the establishment candidate and the Globe has already annointed her.  I just feel like her campaign is one big victory lap, and that is bugging me to no end.  We need a young leader who isn't beholden to the same old politicos who have been running this state forever.  Niki is that type of candidates, whereas Jamie is the exact opposite.  I can't stand nepotism, and every time I see Niki, she mentions Paul Tsongas over and over.  Now, I liked Sen. Tsongas, and I am very sorry he passed away, but I don't want to award Niki a seat in Congress because she kept his last name.  And let's be real here: if Niki does win, how many terms is she going to serve?  I say three terms tops.  Now, if Jamie or even a Barry Finegold is elected, they can represent the district for a long time. 

        I find this race extremely interesting.  The dynamic is fascinating.  I see there being four strong candidates: Niki, Jamie, Barry, and Eileen Donoghue.  Of those four, I think only three can actually win; I think it will be almost impossible for Eileen to win as Niki is going to eat into her natural base: Lowell voters and women.  Between Niki, Jamie and Barry, Niki is the frontrunner for one simple reason: her last name.  She knows, if she can just run out these five months without any major mistakes, she's in good shape.  But let me say it would be a big mistake to assume that Niki or Eileen will win because they're from Lowell.  This primary is a lot like 1998 where we saw a former Boston Mayor (Flynn) lose to the mayor of Somerville (Capuano) because the latter was able to get 55% in Somerville, while the Boston vote was hugely split.  The dynamic in this race is similar in that respect. 

        If either Jamie or Barry can strongly mobilize their bases (Jamie in the southern towns and Barry in Andover and Lawrence), they have a strong shot.  I see Jamie having the better chance because while Barry will do excellent in Andover, Lawrence is too big, and will be fractured heavily among multiple candidates.  Conversely, I think it is very possible for Jamie to get a large chuck of the southern towns.  No way turnout tops the 2006 primary (80 K), so if Jamie can squeeze out 20,000 of the progressive Democrats all over the district, he is going to be the next congressman.  Let's all hope that happens!

    • Are You Involved with NotNiki.com

      I noticed that some of the anonymous comments on www.NotNiki.com regarding Niki Tsongas' position on health care mirrors what you said on Blue Mass. Group.  I was wondering if you are involved with the NotNiki.com

  3. Niki Tsongas post

      I'm in NY, don't know much about Ms. Tsongas except from her post and from previous BMG comment. I am aware that the Mass. "plan" has many thorny questions attached.

      As for her post, as an old boss of mine would say, she should have stood in bed.

  4. Health Care Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing from Ms. Tsongas

    Mrs. Tsongas's posting explaining her political views on "universal access to coverage" reflects a disingenuous and naive approach to the health care problem in the state and the nation.

    First, if Mrs. Tsongas supports universal access to health care for the $47 million uninsured, the questions, despite her protestations to the contrary, for members and candidates for Congress and the Presidency remains which financing approach (single payer or an incrementalist, government subsidized approach going after specific populations) and what level and scope of medical care cost controls are you willing to embrace to get to the "goal of universal coverage." Moreover, if Mrs. Tsongas truly believes that "the question is how do we get health care coverage for ourselves and our families as soon as possible," then 5th District voters would logically assume she favors a single-payer approach to fixing the health care approach. However, at the Lowell candidates forum sponsored by the New England News Forum earlier in April, I specifically asked Mrs. Tsongas if she favored a national single-payer approach to health care reform, and she said unequivocally stated she opposed a single-payer plan. In this posting to the Blue Mass Group, only three weeks after the forum, Mrs. Tsongas  has revised her view and now suggests she would be open to a single-payer approach, if that approach resulted in American families being covered "as soon as possible."

    Second, the argument of Mrs. Tsongas that newly enacted and minimally implemented Massachusetts Universal Health Care Law should be considered a model for national health care reform reflects a complete misapprehension about how a state public policy initiative becomes a scaleable model for the nation. First, any public policy initiative, particularly one as complex as achieving universal access to health care coverage, has to be IMPLEMENTED and EVALUATED in a state before any thoughtful politician would consider it to be "promising" and scaleable on a national basis. Not even the staunchest proponents on the state Connector Board or the health care reform advocacy community of the Mass. Universal Health Care Law would assert that this highly experimental, partially implemented, and wholly unevaluated state health care reform law should presently be considered "a model" for national health care reform in the United States. Mrs. Tsongas and other 5th District should level with their constituents about the "promising" nature of the Massachusetts health care reform experiment. Specifically, the need to restrain their enthusiastic embrace of a partially implemented, wholly unevaluated state health care reform law that its state government implementers just recently modified in such a way that the promise "universal quality and affordable health care insurance coverage" will NOT be fulfilled in this state, at least, for the forseeable future.

  5. Fatuous rhetoric

    "For me, the issue is which universal care system can be put in place most quickly so that we can secure quality health care for every American."

    Quality health care for every American is not something you achieve by making speed (ie, immediate political palatability, without moral suasion or grassroots support) your #1 value.

    "For the 47 million uninsured Americans, the question isn't single-payer or multi-payer. For them, the question is, how do we get health care coverage for ourselves and our families as soon as possible. Providing them with the access to health care they deserve has to be our first priority."

    Actual policy somehow doesn't matter to getting this done? Maybe, as you suggest, the uninsured don't care, but a congressperson should.

    "That's the newly enacted Massachusetts Universal Health Care Plan."

    Will that include a federal individual mandate then?

  6. I hate to tell you,

    but the fact is that this health care issue at the national level is irrelevant.  At the national level, nothing will change.  Hillary saw to that in 1993-94.

    Are there other issues that might differentiate among the candidates?  If so, get to them.

    I can't vote for any of them, since I am not a resident in the district.  But, bois and goils, please discuss things that might indicate relevant differences among the candidates.  Various proposals on health care financing at the federal level won't, because they aren't going to happen.

    BTW, it is rather amusing that BMG is (apparently) allowing its server space to be used by political candidates.  I hope that they are charging them appropriately.  It would be nice if they would tell us that they were doing so, and for which candidates.

    • It is a public blog

      Anybody is free to make a post on BMG, and the Editors front-page whatever they feel like. I think so far their policy has been to front-page anything posted by or officially on behalf of a candidate. (e.g. Do I think Niki Tsongas actually pressed the "submit" button? I give it a 50-50 chance that it wasn't a campaign worker, but it's still "her" post.)

      So I think the answer to your question "for which candidates?" is "Any candidate who feels like it." Which I'm fine with, and is how it should be if the blog is going to maintain its air of nonpartisanship.

      And as Bob, Charlie and David have made clear, it's their site, and they don't feel any onus to tell us in advance how things are going to be. Our notice that they're letting a candidate post comes when we see the post.

  7. Thank you Niki Tsongas...

    for taking the time out to clarify what you meant.  You are absolutely right to support a policy that has the best chance of success because there are a lot of people out there suffering right now without health insurance.  Those people who criticize you because they think you should support universal single-payer health care refuse to face the reality of what is possible currently, given the  political mindset in the U.S.  I wish I could vote for you, but I do not live in your district.  I prefer to have a representative that understands the political reality of what is possible and works for it, rather than a representative who tells me only what I want to hear even if it is not possible.  (BTW, I have always hoped for a single payer health care system in the United States, but I also know that such a system is not acceptable to most U.S. voters.  In other words, I know proposing such a system will fail.) 

    • Poll after poll shows strong voter support for a single payer financed type of system with gov't guaranteeing coverage for all

      If you want to show me your poll data that negates that fact, I'll be watching for it.  Thanks.

      "BTW, I have always hoped for a single payer health care system in the United States, but I also know that such a system is not acceptable to most U.S. voters.  In other words, I know proposing such a system will fail."

      Gheesh, would people stop spewing the rhetoric of the insurance industry already....

      • Do you have a link?

        To the polls I mean?  As for your last statement.... really unnecessary and certainly not the way to convince people of your position. 

        • I gather you noticed that I'm aggravated

          For 20 years being polite and diplomatic hasn't gotten this movement too far so I'm trying a different tact.  Being blunt.  Being honest.  It's nothing personal and I certainly don't wish to aggrieve you.

          btw I don't believe that universal healthcare is "my position".

          Univ HC with a central role for gov't to provide it is a humanitarian position that every other civilized wealthy nation has identified as something worth having. And they all have it.

          Every single industrialized country except the U.S. have some form of national health insurance that guarantees coverage for all. They all pay less per capita and get better health status outcomes than the U.S..

          What's that tell you?

          Here's one of many poll links, as you requested.

          Where's your link?

  8. don't get it

    NT clarified that she supports implementing MA's new health care law.  Universal yes, single-payer no. 

    Why the vituperative comments at HER?  She stands with the Dem establishment.  Why single her out?  Why not focus on Sal and now Deval?  Because she used the word "market forces" in a comment?  Sheesh. 

    • Heh

      I was thinking similarly, except I was thinking, let the Lefties eat their own.  No reason for the libertarian comment from me.

    • What she didn't clarify

      Her comments about the positive influence of the free market on health care costs were what worried me from the initial post on the matter. I agree that true single payer may not be immediately feasible and there there will likely have to be intermediate steps in the progression of health care reform. That wasn't the point.

      I want clarification on the other matter, which, if not retracted or well explained, demonstrates a health care viewpoint with which I strongly disagree.

    • GGW, have you been sleeping through the MA HC reform debate?

      the current law ain't gonna get us to universal coverage and the "backers" of the law explain that it was never meant to! 

      What the law will do is further bankrupt the state while lining the already bulging pockets of insurance and big Pharma.

      For folks who understand the details of health policy there's plenty of reason to be rightly disturbed and dismayed by NT's post

      For those who need to learn more you can read the article about the failings of the MA HC law written by a senior policy researcher at COnsumers Union

      • How about reading the interview of Prof. Jonathan Gruber?

        Just to get a different viewpoint.  It is in the most recent CommonWealth magazine.  He is a professor of economics at MIT.

        • I'll get around to reading Gruber in MassInc's mag but having read his post on the NPR blog

          "Commonhealth" I'm not too eager to spend my time on him any longer.  Many health policy and clinician experts have grave disagreements with Gruber.

          You can read about these on the NPR blog by clicking here

          To read about the widespread support for single payer reform on the Commonhealth blog click here

  9. I hate candidate drive-by posting.

    Almost as much as a candidate who dances around a previous statement with a bunch of bullshit that tells us stuff that we already know (yay, universal healthcare - duh!). Where in this so-called "response" does she address the comments she made at the GLAD meeting?

    Saying the question isn't single-payer or multi-payer is no more than an attempt to dodge her previous comment.  If you support a market-based solution, Mrs Tsongas then lets hear why. 

    Another question: Does Mrs Tsongas want to have a discussion on this issue or not?  So far her campaign has done a great job of dropping off press releases, but no follow up comments to the several questions that people have asked in various threads.  No comments at all since March 15?  Isn't BMG supposed to be her "official" blog? 

    Or is this just a case of the staffers writing under her byline?  Fine, but at least spell Niki's name right in her profile, eh?

    Disclosure: my candidate is Jamie Eldridge 

    • I invited her to respond.

      It ain't drive-by. I've also asked the other candidates to respond on the issue of health care.

      • Nope

        This post does not address the question that you linked to in your thanks to the candidate. 

        Mrs Tsongas' comments at GLAD from Richard Howe's blog:

        I want to watch what's going on in Massachusetts.  One thing I've learned at Fallon [according the 2005 annual report of Fallon Community Health Plan, Niki was the clerk of the board of directors] is the impact of the market.  We have to compete with other plans.  We have to be customer oriented and promote preventive care.  The American people are so independent.  I don't think Americans want the government telling us what we can eat and how much we should weigh.  A single payer system might reduce administrative costs, but that's what the market does.  Also, we survive on our investments [as opposed to just member premiums].  The market controls costs.  So, I'm in favor of a multipayer system.

          (emphasis mine)

        There is no clarification of Mrs Tsongas' remarks to GLAD in this post.

        Your criteria may differ, but it is common blogging knowledge that dropping off posts and not responding to comments is drive-by posting. 

        Obviously someone is paying attention now because her name is now spelled correctly in her bio. 

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