Rows of polling booths await voters on May 2.  PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: State Senate Candidates Weigh In on How to Improve the State’s Health Care System

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WestfordCAT has asked the state Senate candidates to respond to questions about pressing societal issues. This week’s question:  What would you do to improve the state’s health care system and reduce costs? Is a single payer system an option?

The candidates who responded, state their positions below. Lowell Democrats John Drinkwater, Rodney Elliott, and Lowell Republican John MacDonald did not respond.

Democrat Edward J. Kennedy is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

Democrat Edward J. Kennedy is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

EDWARD J. KENNEDY, Lowell Democrat

I believe that access to affordable, high-quality health care is a right and that it should be available to all. I support a Medicare-for-all health care system and will fight for legislation aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I also recognize that a solution to the health care issue should come from the federal government rather than state government.

The Physicans For A National Health Care Program have prepared a comparative grid that compares the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), and the Medicare For All Proposal (Single-Payer). Based on the comparative grid, a Medicare For All system is the only system that offers universal coverage for all and a full range of benefits. It is also the only system that would allow patients the freedom to choose their own doctor and hospital.

A Medicare For All system would re-direct $500 billion in administrative costs to direct health care. Approximately 95 percent of American households would pay less than they do now under a Medicare For All system.

Bill Martin, a Lowell Democrat, is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

Bill Martin, a Lowell Democrat, is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

BILL MARTIN, Lowell Democrat

The US has the most expensive health care costs in the world, but we do not have better patient results despite the high cost.  There is no single answer to reducing costs; a combination of approaches is needed.

One measure now being implemented is the use of accountable care organizations, where insurers pay a per patient cost instead of a per procedure cost.  This model has been successful in limited circumstances elsewhere, and is now being tried in Massachusetts.

As senator I will monitor the success and shortcomings of the program and make changes where needed.  Another cost saver that can also produce better patient results is increased use of data and technology.  Though every patient is different, studying data from prior cases can improve treatment protocols resulting in fewer complications like infections.

Leveraging technology to learn from past practice can reduce costs and improve results. I don’t think it is feasible for Massachusetts to implement a single payer model on its own; this needs to be done federally because many spots are paid through Medicare and Medicaid.  In the meantime Massachusetts should continue to lead by example, insuring virtually all people while continuing to hold down costs and improve patient outcomes.

Westford Democrat Terry Ryan is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

Terry Ryan, a Westford Democrat, is a candidate for state Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

TERRY RYAN, Westford Democrat

As a father of a child with epilepsy, I understand firsthand the importance of innovative healthcare that is affordable and accessible.  Health care is a right and not a privilege of only those who can afford it. Massachusetts stands strong as a leader in health care, but our state still experiences significant disparities in health care access and insurance coverage, as premiums continue to rise.

As a state Senator, I will work to drive innovation, efficiency, and availability to our residents. While I don’t believe we are politically prepared to adopt a single-payer health care system at this time, it is something we can and should work toward as a state and as a country. In the meantime, I will work with my colleagues to focus on reversing inefficiencies in our current system, seeking to drive down costs, increase innovation, improve outcomes, and expand access to all.