How realistic is single payer in Massachusetts? A state Rep. and an activist to hold discussion at Odyssey Bookshop

The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley will be hosting a discussion between Deborah Levenson from Western Mass Medicare for All and State Rep. John Scibak  (D-South Hadley) on May 22 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. about the prospects of creating a single payer health care system in Massachusetts.

Jon Weissman, the event’s organizer and a member of Western Mass. Medicare for All, told the Valley Advocate the event is part of the Odyssey’s ongoing speaker series and he hopes attendees will gain a better understanding of how realistic it is for Massachusetts to build a single payer system.

“They will get a sense of how realistic it is; how practical it is,” he said. “Everyone wants a practical solution to rising healthcare prices and distribution of health care. So they’ll come away with it in the concept that there’s a real movement now. There’s a lot of legislators that are in favor of it. The Democratic Party itself has it in their platform in Massachusetts … Hopefully, between Deborah and John they’ll hopefully get a sense that there’s coordination.”

He said he wanted the speakers to be from “the inside game and the outside game” — one from the world of grassroots activism and another from state government.

“In order for this thing to win, there has to be a legislative decision, ideally by the Statehouse,” Weissman said. “If not, it could go to the ballot, but the process for taking it to the ballot also involves the Statehouse. We’ve been introducing a single payer bill for 20 years in the Statehouse, so there’s always an opportunity for a legislative win.”

Weissman said Scibak, who announced his retirement in February, has served as a member of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing at the state level and has a  background in healthcare administration. Scibak’s district also includes South Hadley.

“We’ve worked with him in the past on this issue, but one thing that happened was he saw a movie called ‘Fix It’, a documentary that’s available online, and that convinced him that we should be looking at wholesale reform and not retail and that we should be going for single payer in a serious way … He’s been discussing this idea with constituents and he’s also been paying more attention to a regional single payer movement,” Weissman said.

Weissman said he thinks single payer is realistic for Massachusetts.

“It’s maybe a little easier in Massachusetts than California and New York because they’re huge … We also have the population size, which makes it easier to set up a health care trust. It pays all of our bills. It’s like one big insurance plan for everyone.”

To reserve a seat for the event call 413-534-7307 or email

Chris Goudreau can be reached at

Author: Chris Goudreau

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