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Talking Points

Tobacco Tax For Health Now!

Support the 50 cent Tobacco Tax to fund critical programs in this time of economic uncertainty.

SAVE HEALTH CARE for Children, Families & Seniors
PROVIDE HEALTH CARE for working families threatened by the recession
PROTECT HOSPITALS by decreasing demand on the Free Care Pool
REDUCE YOUTH SMOKING to save lives and cut Health Care costs

1. Health Now! will SAVE HEALTH CARE for Children, Families, People with Disabilities and Seniors


· Over 250,000 children, parents, people with disabilities and other low-income residents have been covered by the 1996 MassHealth expansion. This expansion was funded by a tobacco tax passed in 1996 and with federal matching funds. A new tobacco tax will help maintain these programs without the need for new state funds.

· Without additional revenue, the Commonwealth may have to cut people off 1996 MassHealth programs. These cuts will result in loss of Health Care for thousands of children and families, particularly because every state dollar cut means a dollar lost in federal funds. People who lose coverage will then have to rely on the limited benefits in the Free Care Pool—this also means a greater deficit in the Pool, which hurts hospitals and health centers who rely on it for reimbursement for care of the uninsured.

· The Commonwealth should be authorized to seek federal matching funds for the Pharmacy Advantage Program to make sure that the 70,000 Seniors and People with Disabilities can afford the life-saving medications they need.

2. Health Now! will PROVIDE HEALTH CARE for working families threatened by the recession


· At a time of economic distress, an investment in expanding health coverage is an exceptionally good use of state dollars. Expanding coverage strengthens the economic stability and purchasing power of working-poor families who will be hardest hit by the downturn.

· Many low-wage workers already lack health coverage—18% are uninsured even now after good economic times. With the recession deepening, we can expect employers to cut back on health insurance to even more workers. These workers will not be able to afford the high cost (~$4,000 year/individual) of buying health insurance on their own.

· Providing coverage through MassHealth expansion contributes to the overall health of the Massachusetts economy. Every dollar of MassHealth expansion brings in at least fifty cents in new federal money. Health Care is one of the largest sectors of our economy. Expanding MassHealth keeps employment strong. Without the tobacco tax, lay-offs in the health sector may be necessary, contributing to higher unemployment and a deeper recession.


· In light of current events, community health workers are increasingly key to responding to public health emergencies in our communities.

· Community health workers are playing a critical role in helping people in low income and minority communities get connected to the care and preventive services they need.

3. Health Now! will PROTECT HOSPITALS by decreasing demand on the Free Care Pool and reducing emergency room overcrowding

· Hospitals are stressed to the breaking point. The Free Care Pool deficit is growing. The Free Care Pool, funded primarily by hospitals as well as insurers and the state, pays hospitals and community health centers to provide hospitalization and primary care to the uninsured. Every dollar spent on expanding MassHealth helps hospitals by reducing demand on the Free Care Pool. By covering uninsured people through MassHealth, we can reduce the need to allocate new funds to maintain the viability of the Free Care Pool.

· Our emergency rooms are facing a severe overcrowding crisis, as hospitals are increasing ambulance diversions and wait times. The problem is due in part to uninsured people who have little choice except to rely on emergency departments for their routine care. Expanding coverage will provide the uninsured with a primary ( doctor and a regular site for care, reducing costly emergency room visits.

· People without insurance are three times less likely to see a physician or get needed medical care, which can lead to more serious health conditions and loss of income. Without preventive Health Care, many will get sicker and need costly hospitalizations paid for by the Free Care Pool. Increased coverage means a better allocation of our Health Care dollars and reduced reliance on the emergency and in- patient services proved by the Free Care Pool.

4. Health Now! will REDUCE YOUTH SMOKING to save lives and cut Health Care Costs

· The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has demonstrated that comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs and higher cigarette prices reduce the death toll and financial cost of tobacco. A cigarette tax increase will support the nationally acclaimed Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program and reduce youth smoking by 8.5%, helping to keep the next generation tobacco free.

· Children born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a substantially increased likelihood of low birth weight and associated health problems. Increasing cigarette prices has been proven to be highly effective in reducing smoking among pregnant women, particularly among low income and minority women.

· Smoking costs Massachusetts’ residents $2.6 billion in Health Care each year.

The Health Now! Massachusetts coalition is made up of more than 60 organizations, bringing together the same broad-based coalition that led the successful 1996 effort to pass Chapter 203, which has brought health coverage to over 250,000 children and adults.

Health Now! Massachusetts is part of the Alliance for a Healthy New England, which is working to pass tobacco tax increases in all six New England states.

Visit or call us for more information about the Health Now! Massachusetts campaign.

Marcia Hams at Health Care for All: 617-350-7279 x 2917
Jack Hall at Meredith and Hall: 617-338-0954
Marc Boutin at the American Cancer Society: 617-556-7420


Bill Fact Sheet

Border Effect Quiz

Detailed Summary of Health Now! Legislation

Health Now! 4-Page Overview

Health Now! Q & A

Myths and Facts about Health Now!

November 13, 2001 Press Release

The Health Now! Legislation

HealthNow! The Massachusetts Chapter of the Alliance for a Healthy New England
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