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"More Good News from the Health Reform Battlefield" by Salvatore F. DiMasi

Recent days have brought more good news for health care in the Commonwealth and those who are fighting in the trenches to ensure the success of our landmark reform legislation – which seeks to provide nothing less than health care for nearly every man, woman and child – should take a brief but well-deserved bow.

As Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan noted in her blog entry last week, the approval by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority of so-called affordability standards will help us achieve the goal of the individual mandate.

Though covered only by certain media outlets, including WBUR, the Connector’s vote is yet another significant milestone for our law. In lowering some of the premiums, the board took a significant step toward making this law work for those who need it most. I commend their hard work on an important task delegated to them by the Legislature.

I’m also happy to note that the $26.7 billion state budget released last week by the House Ways and Means Committee followed through on our commitments under the new law – providing $1.8 billion to fund key elements of the reform, including funding for restored benefits, population expansion and increased rates for providers.

The House budget, to be debated next week, also provides $140 million for the MassHealth Family Assistance program (including funding for increased enrollment under the new eligibility requirements), $262 million for MassHealth Essential (including funding for increased enrollment up to the new enrollment cap of 60,000), $16 million for the MassHealth HIV program, $1 million for expansion of the MassHealth Wellness program and $63 million to ensure Prescription Advantage is able to provide financial assistance to the Commonwealth’s seniors.

While this funding is significant, spending on almost all programs had to be curtailed given the $800 million budget deficit we faced. We hope, and indeed, expect, to do more in future years.

The fight for bold reform to our health care system is a day-to-day, even hour-to-hour effort at the State House, within businesses and insurers and on the ground in hospitals and health centers. We knew early in this process that implementation would involve a series of tough choices and a commitment that all stakeholders pull in the same direction.

With that effort continuing, I have every reason to expect we will have continued success.

Salvatore F. DiMasi, a Democrat from the North End of Boston, is Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives

This program aired on April 18, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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