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30 Years Fighting for Health-Care Access, Focus Shifts to Affordability

Health Care For All's 1996 victory march after state lawmakers passed legislation creating MassHealth and expanded coverage for kids. The group's 30th anniversary will be celebrated tonight in Boston. Courtesy: Health Care for All.
Health Care For All's 1996 victory march after state lawmakers passed legislation creating MassHealth and expanded coverage for kids. The group's 30th anniversary will be celebrated tonight in Boston. Courtesy: Health Care for All.
April 15, 2015

BOSTON - While Tax Day has many Americans thinking about the new check-off box on income-tax forms that tracks whether they have health insurance, the focus in Massachusetts has shifted to the quality and affordability of that coverage.

State efforts that date back to 2006 have ensured that very few residents of the Commonwealth will end up paying a penalty for failing to sign up for health insurance, said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All.

"Ninety-six percent of adults in Massachusetts have health insurance," she said. "So, we're eight years ahead of the rest of the country, and we are now working very hard on the cost and quality of care that people receive."

Tonight in Boston, more than 500 business leaders, advocates and consumers will attend a 30th anniversary celebration of Health Care for All's efforts to increase access to quality health care in Massachusetts. Former Gov. Michael Dukakis will present an award to Ari Haseotes, chief executive of Cumberland Farms, who extended benefits to 1,500 workers, many of them part-timers.

"Mr. Haseotes has figured out that to be a successful business, you need employees who are happy and healthy," Whitcomb Slemmer said.

On Tax Day, she said, many people are newly focused on their obligation to purchase health insurance. She said the federal government also is obliged to provide subsidies to those who qualify.

"In Massachusetts, we pay attention to the concept of shared responsibility," Whitcomb Slemmer said. "Doctors have to take the coverage that we buy, and our employers who participate need to make sure that they provide health insurance benefits."

Tonight's celebration is to take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Westin Copley Place.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA