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Residents rally for single-payer healthcare system

Non-profit groups gather at the Massachusetts State House Saturday afternoon to advocate for the right to health. PHOTO BY CHLOE GRINBERG/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

More than 100 people gathered at the Massachusetts State House Saturday afternoon for the Rally to Take Back Health, organized to show support for a new healthcare initiative, the United States National Health Care Act.

If passed, this bill, otherwise known as Improved Medicare for All, would establish a single-payer solution to health care, a system in which a single public agency organizes health care financing.

The bill would also guarantee the right to high quality healthcare for everyone in America, according to Armide Storey, a first-year student in the Boston University School of Medicine and a member of the BU chapter of Students for a National Health Program, a branch of the nonprofit Physicians for a National Health Program.

The BU chapter of SNaHP co-sponsored the rally, along with several other universal healthcare organizations such as Healthcare-NOW! and Right Care Boston, the Boston chapter of the Right Care Alliance.

Janine Petito, a fourth-year BUSM student and a member of SNaHP, told The Daily Free Press that the main goal of the rally is to draw attention to the current healthcare system, the Affordable Care Act, while also advocating for a change in the healthcare system.

“The ACA is really an important thing, but we also need to push for more of a progressive policy like single-payer that is the basis for a more equitable health system,” Petito said.

Petito said the American Health Care Act, the Trump administration’s proposal that failed earlier this year in Congress, would not have protected people from the cost of healthcare.

“Healthcare should be treated as a human right and this country fails to do it and both [ACA and ACHA] do nothing for that,” Petito said.

During the rally, speakers from various organizations spoke out against the current healthcare system and discussed the need for a universal healthcare program in the United States.

Demonstrators carried signs bearing slogans like, “patients over profit,” and chanted “healthcare, not welfare,” and “everybody in, nobody out,” in between speeches, referring to a comprehensive healthcare system.

Benjamin Day, the executive director of Healthcare-NOW!, spoke out against the ACA and the ACHA.

“The GOP act would have created hundreds of more people dying at the hands of our healthcare system, but the Affordable Care Act is not an acceptable system either,” Day said.

Massachusetts State Rep. Mike Connolly said he supports the single-payer healthcare system and noted life expectancy is going down in the nation.

“Every year the cost of healthcare goes up, but somehow life expectancy goes down,” Connolly said. “I think that’s wrong and that’s why we have to fight for single-payer healthcare.”

Connolly also shared his vision for specific improvements alongside the Improved Medicare for All bill.

“I’d like to boost coverage in mental health and dental health,” Connolly said. “I think we could maybe invest in making healthy food available for people so we won’t have chronic illness.”

Connolly ended his remarks with a call to action in support of this new proposal.

“We achieved a great victory, but being on the defense is insufficient,” Connolly said. “It’s time to go on over.”

Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute, the nonprofit that founded Right Care Alliance, spoke on behalf of Right Care Boston about the need to spend federal funding on essential health care programs instead of more obscure and uncommon ones.

“We waste a lot of money on tests and procedures that nobody needs,” Saini said. “Meanwhile, some basic simple needs are ignored and people are left to fend for themselves.”

After the speeches ended, protesters came together to chant and sing as they concluded the rally.

Several participants said they were unsatisfied with the current healthcare system and supported the movement for one.

Kumar Rana, 55, of Cambridge, said as an activist who’s worked around the globe, he supports the single-payer system.

“I find that America is so far behind [in healthcare] compared to other industrialized countries, so it’s important to have investment here,” Rana said.

Carol Seibert, 75, of Brookline, a retired anesthesiologist, said she came to the rally to support healthcare as a human right for all and support the new healthcare bill as a backup to the ACA.

“I think that with Improved Medicare for All, we’re talking about a plan B if the ACA goes down to have our plan ready to go,” Seibert said.

Anne-Marie Williams, 28, of Cambridge, said the current healthcare system hurts patients she will be working with in the future, so she came to the rally to band together with other medical professionals who have the same concerns.

“I know there is so much to do moving forward, but I’m also very worried about all of the efforts to push us backwards,” Williams said. “I think the only way to prevent that is all organizing together.”

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