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"Keeping Our Eye on the Ball" by Salvatore F. DiMasi

Yesterday marked yet another step along the path toward our goal of eliminating the number of uninsured residents in Massachusetts. As I stood on the third base dugout at Fenway Park with Governor Patrick and Senate President Murray, community and religious leaders, Red Sox representatives, insurers and providers, we all marveled at the dramatic setting.

But, we also were sobered by the crucial task that we were all there to promote—informing and educating the public, not only about the new requirement to obtain health insurance, effective July 1, but also about new resources that will help them identify and purchase the health plan that is best for them and their health circumstances.

The event was marked by the presence of private and public resources that will be leveraged to make sure that all of our residents have access to the security of a medical home—regular sources of care, including preventive care, that will help keep them well and offer them treatment before they become critically ill.

Marketing and outreach is now the cornerstone of getting the message out to the public and making this law a success. It represents a significant investment of health reform funding, but the return on that investment is clear.

So many eyes are on the early innings of the new Health Insurance Connector’s role in administering the Commonwealth Care program, distributing Commonwealth Choice and Young Adult insurance products, and assisting small employers and individuals to access products, many with pre-tax dollars. But we must be mindful that the Connector isn’t the only game in town with important new responsibilities under the new health reform law. Many other state agencies have important roles as well.

The Division of Health Care Finance and Policy and the Division of Unemployment Assistance have been hard at work drafting and revising regulations that affect new employer responsibilities, including the Fair Share Contribution. Meanwhile, the Division of Insurance approves the new products that will be purchased through the Connector and works to staff a newly-created Bureau of Health Care Access there. The Department of Revenue has been in the mix too, preparing for the individual responsibility provisions of the new law. A health care quality and cost council will work to establish quality benchmarks and contain health care costs. And another council will tackle the important goal of eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in providing health care for our residents.

We in the Legislature are carefully watching, and participating, in the important work going on in those agencies and elsewhere to ensure that this law continues to be a success. This is an exciting and historic time for us here in Massachusetts, and we all have to step up to the plate to make this work.

Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-North End, is Speaker of the House of Representatives

This program aired on May 23, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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