"A Call to Action!" by Reverend Hurmon Hamilton

This article is more than 13 years old.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8

On the evening of May 27, 2008, 1700 leaders gathered at Boston University to celebrate GBIO’s tenth year anniversary. On the stage that night was Governor Deval Patrick, Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, Mayor Thomas Menino, and Mr. Jack Connors - Board Chairman for Partners Health Care. In the audience were scores of city counselors, State administration officials, and key leaders from health care, business and insurance industries. As President, I had the honor and duty of laying out a vision for the next decade that would offer a framework for meeting the public policy challenges that lay ahead, together.

In my challenge to the gathered leaders and allies, I argued that this framework is found both within the words of sacred text (noted above) and in the word we so often throw around, “Commonwealth.” Simply put, the vision we are called to embrace going forward is “shared power”, “shared responsibility” and “shared sacrifice!” Those of us who share the power to make public policy must also lead in the sharing of responsibilities and sacrifices required to sustain public policy. Nowhere is this fact more evident then in this current phase of Massachusetts’ landmark healthcare reform.
See here and here for Parts 1 and 2 of my challenge to the leaders of Massachusetts and our allies.

Yesterday’s lead Globe editorial states the challenge in clear terms,

“The Good news is that enrollment in the state's new subsidized health insurance program has greatly exceeded projections. The bad news is that this has raised the first-year cost of Commonwealth Care from an expected $472 million to $630 million. To fill the gap, the Patrick administration has devised a plan that spreads the pain relatively equally among health reform's major stakeholders, from providers to employers to insurers and the state itself. The most important stakeholders - the individuals and families who have signed up for the state's pioneering effort at universal coverage - have already done their bit.”

More specifically, the proposal put forth by the Governor includes collecting an additional $33 million from employers by tightening the “Fair Share” test. Health care companies are to develop a one-time $33 million assessment on excess insurer funds held in reserve. Health care providers will give a one-time, $28 million increase in the health Safety Net Trust Fund. For its own part the state will authorize a one-time transfer of up to $35 million in surplus funds currently in the Medical Security Trust Fund

Click here for the governor’s supplemental bill.

I would first like to take a moment to commend Governor Patrick. In his response to my remarks on May 27th, the Governor pledged before 1700 leaders not to leave consumers, who this past April accepted a 10 percent increase in Premiums and additional increases in co-pays, holding the bag for the cost of succeeding in providing quality affordable healthcare to the uninsured. He pledged that the State would do its part to help set the table for not just shared power (exercised in the creation of this reform), but for shared responsibility and sacrifice needed to sustain this historic effort. Late Sunday evening, the Governor filed his supplemental and kept his word. See here for Governor Patrick’s May 27th remarks.

When Speaker DiMasi responded to my remarks on May 27th, he reminded the 1700 leaders of a promise he made to me two years ago, to stand with GBIO and the uninsured against powerful interests and to work to achieve real health care reform. See here for Speaker DiMasi’s speech. Speaker DiMasi kept his word to us, and bears a lion’s share of the credit for achieving what we have today. I have every confidence that the Speaker will support this current effort of calling all major stakeholders to act by assuming their fair share of responsibility and sacrifice in this critical moment. We strongly urge Senate President Murray to hear the voice of the people and to continue to work towards reform by following the example of the Governor and those standing with him.

And to those stakeholders and allies within the business, insurer and provider communities, we say it is now time for you to act! The collective contribution of consumers through increased premiums and co-payments is roughly 30 million dollars. These are families with limited resources struggling under enormous economic burden in a deepening recession. Surely if these families are assuming their fair share of responsibility and sacrifice – you can also. And specifically to the business community who have verbalized some opposition to coming to the table of shared responsibility and sacrifice, the Governor’s proposal simply calls you to act by keeping your “word.” The Fair and Reasonable agreement was designed to generate 103 million dollars in the first three years. To date, because of loopholes created by the previous administration this agreement has only produced 15 million dollars. Surely this is anything but fair.

Governor Patrick has led the way on this new effort to improve short term funding for our landmark health care system. But the work is not over, and I am hopeful that all our leaders will see the need to approve this bill and work towards “shared responsibility” and “shared sacrifice!” The call has gone forth, the commonwealth and powers of eternity are waiting, now is the time to act!

The Reverend Hurmon Hamilton
President, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

This program aired on July 16, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.