House Speaker Sal DiMasi yesterday gave his much-anticipated speech on Massachusetts health reform at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation meeting at the JFK Library in Dorchester. He did not reveal details of the forthcoming House plan, expected by the end of this month. See today’s Globe for details. He did give indications of House thinking on the issue. Some items that caught our attention:
First, he recognized that three plans are contributing to this process, Gov. Romney’s, Sen. Pres. Travaglini’s, and the Affordable Care Today Coalition's – more than a few commentators leave off the third plan, and it’s significant that DiMasi recognizes this proposal in this plan – including the important role of employers.
Second, he validated one of the core concerns with RomneyCare: “The time has passed for fuzzy math or for mysterious insurance products with a price tag but unknown benefits.” Though the Governor has been bragging about his $200 per month premium plans since last November, not one of the state’s insurers has yet to produce a detailed plan.
Third, while recognizing the role of individuals in needing to buy insurance, he also recognizes business responsibility: “We want to encourage employers to maintain their commitment to their employees. … Businesses that currently do not offer insurance will be encouraged to do so.” Yep, leaves a lot to the imagination. Still, his words advance the conversation.
Fourth, he committed to House to action on health reform this year, even pledging to bring the House into session during its six week recess from mid-November to early January if a plan is not yet completed by 11/16.
Fifth, he recognized the racial and ethnic health disparities, beyond insurance coverage, is a health system problem that must be addressed and fixed.
Also significant, Sen. Pres. Travaglini showed up to hear DiMasi’s remarks, with no speaking role for himself. A good gesture on his part, showing his sustained commitment to get something done, and a good spirit of cooperation between the two branches.
On the 20-person panel before DiMasi’s speech, ACT leaders Jonah Pesner and Celia Wcislo provided great commentary. By the way, the MassACT ballot initiative total now exceeds 45,000. Sign up to help out today – www.massact.org