Just as the development and enactment of health reform legislation was a priority for me in my first two years as Speaker, so is its successful implementation over the next two years. We in Massachusetts should never lose sight of what we, together, accomplished and how it was that we, together, got it done. Not only is our work critically important for the people of Massachusetts – it is important to the nation that is watching our every move.
I recently returned from the State Legislative Leadership Foundation and Policy Consensus Initiative at Tulane University in Louisiana, where I was among 30 state legislative leaders—senate presidents, speakers, majority leaders, and whips—representing 24 states. The title and theme of this year’s program was “Solving the Leadership Puzzle: Consensus, Communication & Vision,” and the discussions focused in part on a case study of the Massachusetts health reform law. In my presentation, I described how we achieved consensus around the Commonwealth’s comprehensive and groundbreaking legislation. Uniting the range of interests and stakeholders—many of whom contribute to this blog—was only the first of many challenges we faced in bringing affordable, accessible and quality health care to virtually every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. We have set high standards for Massachusetts, and we all must rise to meet those standards with the same commitment that got us to this point.
We understand that our health reform law is bold, innovative, and comprehensive. We also appreciate its place in a growing movement among states seeking to tackle the most challenging health access issues of our generation with dwindling help from the federal government. What we too often lose sight of, in the course of our hectic day to day work on many matters, is that Massachusetts health reform has revolutionized the way that the entire country considers health insurance and health security for our citizens. In fact, earlier this month, adopting Massachusetts-style reforms on a national stage were highlighted throughout a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.
Whenever I gather with my counterparts from other states, we discuss the need for building consensus and overcoming the obstacle of self-interest. We discuss common goals and ways we can obtain them. And we agree that practical solutions can be found only once a fair and honest analysis of an issue is completed.
The Commonwealth’s health care reform law has become a teaching opportunity for us in our work with our colleagues from across the country. As we work every day to make this law work and to make Massachusetts a healthy place to work and live, we should keep in mind that we’ve already succeeded in advancing the national conversation about attaining health and health insurance through the cornerstone of our legislation—shared responsibility.
Salvatore DiMasi is Speaker of the House of Representatives in Massachusetts
This program aired on March 27, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.