Democratic gubernatorial candidate Donald Berwick has laid out some ambitious goals, among them ending chronic homelessness and eliminating childhood poverty. But his most sweeping proposal — arguably the most sweeping proposal of the political season — is moving Massachusetts to a single-payer or “Medicare for all” health care system.
Eight years after the state became the first in the country to establish near-universal coverage, Berwick is reaching for an even bigger prize sought by liberals: shifting from privately financed care to a system funded by the government.
The candidate says replacing a welter of insurance companies with a single public payer would simplify a complex system and save hundreds of millions of dollars in administrative costs that could be redirected to other needs: job creation, education, and infrastructure.
“The opportunity is vast,” said Berwick, who ran Medicare and Medicaid for the Obama Administration for 1½ years.
But observers say the hurdles to single-payer health care are many. For one thing, it would require a tax increase. For another, it can be a complex idea that is difficult to explain in campaign soundbites. That may explain, in part, the candidate’s poor standing in the polls with just over a week to go until the Sept. 9 Democratic gubernatorial primary.
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