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'Citizens Involvement Vital' Says Madhu Sridhar

Nirmala Garimella
11/03/2003

Terming the failing health care system as an important public policy matter, Madhu Sridhar, President, League of Women Voters in Massachusetts, in her opening address at the 2003 fall conference called on all citizens, to make it work. “Health care is an issue that touches us all in a very personal way”. Through education and advocacy however,she said the League can serve as a tool for communities in promoting positive solutions.

Citing a recent report commissioned by the Massachusetts Legislature, she said that nearly 40 cents of every dollar we spend for health care goes to administrative overhead. Considering $41.5 billion was spent on health care in Massachusetts in 2002, $16 billion could have been better-spent providing care to those without health insurance, a number, she said , that continues to rise.

Since being elected the President of the League, Madhu Sridhar has been very involved in promoting the League’s mission: that Public policy can be influenced with informed and active participation in government by the citizens. When asked as to what propelled her to accept this post, her reply was “I accepted this position because I want to help build a strong and inclusive democracy and close the participation gap. “As a newly naturalized citizen, I believe I have an important perspective to bring to this organization.

"My own experiences engaging in issues in my local community demonstrated to me that people can make a difference if they choose to get involved”. Her involvement in 1994, when she led and organized a successful campaign for $40.5 million debt exclusion override for renovating three Andover public schools is testimony to this fact. In her two year term, she hopes to lead the League in this new century and continue to build a democracy where citizens are actively engaged in shaping governmental policies that affect their lives and where the government solicits citizen involvement.

To the issue of whether Indian Americans actively involve themselves in the public policy process, Madhu Sridhar opined that though it not enough, the trend is changing off late. “We need to think beyond ethnicity and national origin. We need to expand our agenda to mainstream issues that affect our daily lives like health care, education, environment etc. Neither knowing the political process nor fully realizing the connection between government and these issues diminishes our voice. The League can work with the Asian Indian community as it does with other groups to learn about government, elections, and voting so that they participate as equals in the most fundamental way – at the polls.”

Previous to becoming President, she joined the League of Women Voters in Andover in 1994 and served as the President of the League in Andover from 1996 to 1998 after becoming a naturalized citizen in 1996. She was the moderator for town wide PTO from 1994 to 1996. She served on the board of Dollars for Scholars and is a two-time recipient of “Citizens Who Care” award from the Rotary Club of Andover. She is also member of the advisory board for Chinmaya Maruti, at Andover.

LWV Fall Conference 2003

The topic ‘Fixing our Broken Health care System: Incremental or Comprehensive Change’ was attended by more than 300 people at the Renaissance Bedford Hotel. Keynote speaker Representative John F Tierney called it a patchwork system where there is no or little health benefits for a single parents and senior citizens are left without a health package after their retirement.

A panel discussion followed with Marcia Angell, of the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, former governor Michael Dukakis and Boston University professor Alan Sager with an introduction from Diane Jeffrey, and moderated by Lisa Hughes of WBZ – TV 4.

The present health care system is one that has plenty of waste and profiteering, said Marcia Angell and a single payer system is the solution to this problem. “The Emergency room has become the primary source of Health care”, said Michel Dukakis, and the solution lay in the involvement of the Employer community. Health care must be regulated according to him and there must be insistence of high standards.

Saying that ‘Squander causes Squalor’, Alan Sager reiterated time and again that the present system does not have a sustainable business plan and the health care system is totally consumer driven. Although the single payer system would buy time, it may not be the solution and a few more details need to be thought in this process.

Carol Rose, Executive Director, ACLU of Massachusetts, voiced grave concern over the US Patriot Act and the current administration attempt to bring about a radical revision in the basic principles that govern the nation. According to her “Our system of Checks and Balances are being undermined and replaced by virtually unchecked executive branch authority, Our Government is being allowed to act in secret, without the consent of the governed; and We are moving toward a total surveillance society in which privacy is non-existent and guilt by association replaces traditional notions of due process”.



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