Massachusetts Advocates Remember Rob Restuccia,
Health Care Leader And Visionary, Who Died of Cancer Today
BOSTON, Mass. (March 3rd, 2019) – The staff and board members of Health Care For All (HCFA) are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rob Restuccia (69), a true health care leader and visionary who was intimately connected to the organization since its inception.
“Words cannot express what this loss means for all of us, for consumers in Massachusetts and nationwide, and for the health justice movement as a whole,” said Amy Rosenthal, a long-time mentee of Restuccia’s and current executive director of Health Care For All. “We send our sincerest condolences to his wife Emily, his children and their spouses, his grandchildren, and the rest of the Restuccia family.”
Restuccia was the lead health care organizer of the Health Care For All Coalition that was launched in the mid-1980s. He then became the founding executive director of HCFA when the organization incorporated in 1989. Restuccia served in this role until 2003, with the last four years of his tenure serving as the executive director of HCFA and the newly launched national organization Community Catalyst, where he held the position of executive director until his illness in the fall of 2018. Restuccia’s overwhelming personal commitment to the consumers of the Commonwealth and his loyalty to an organization he cared so much about led him to retake HCFA’s reins on an interim basis in 2016 while a search for new management was launched.
“Rob was a compassionate, strategic and collaborative leader at HCFA for 14 years,” said Marcia Hams, former HCFA staff member and current board chair. “Rob was deeply committed on a very personal level to the people most hurt by our system. From this foundation, he united partners across a wide-range of stakeholder groups – hospitals, providers, insurers, businesses, and policymakers – to work with consumers for positive change.”
Under Restuccia’s leadership, HCFA achieved many important gains on behalf of consumers. In 1988, HCFA was pivotal in advocating for the state Universal Health Care Law. Although it was never fully implemented, the law set the stage for later crucial health reform laws in 1996 and 2006. The 1996 law established the Massachusetts Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expanded coverage to uninsured children and became a model for the national Children’s Health Insurance Program. This program currently provides coverage for 160,000 children in Massachusetts and nine million nationwide. The 2006 law served as the model for the Affordable Care Act.
“Rob’s departure leaves an enormous hole in the consumer health care advocacy movement,” Rosenthal added. “Rob taught all of us that it is our responsibility to train the next generation of health care leaders, and the consumer health care advocacy movement exists today because of him. This movement will continue to thrive as a legacy to him and his incredible passion.”
Restuccia believed that HCFA should empower consumers not only by shaping health policy but also by helping individuals with their own health care problems. As a result, in 1990, HCFA launched its influential HelpLine. With only one staff person, a crew of volunteers, and pink phone message pads, HCFA started problem solving individual consumer cases. HCFA used HelpLine stories to drive its policy agenda, helping the organization understand what consumers were grappling with and what systematic changes were needed. Thirty years later, the HelpLine is still in existence but is now a more sophisticated operation, staffed by four full-time, highly trained counselors who take 20,000 calls yearly in three languages. However, Restuccia’s vision endures – it both serves individual consumers and guides HCFA’s policy direction.
Former HCFA executive director John McDonough notes Restuccia’s inimitable style, “He had world-class listening skills, the patience of Job, and remarkable intensity to stay focused on an ever-expanding vision of health justice. He is the epitome of this made-in-America movement and will be missed. The swarm of family, friends, and colleagues who have embraced him in the past few months is a sign of his singular role and unparalleled contributions.”
Even though Restuccia spent the past 18 years working at Community Catalyst on the national stage, he continued to share his expertise in his home state. For many years, Restuccia served on the boards of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and he was an informal advisor to the Patrick Administration during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
“There is no question that our state’s health care system is stronger because of Rob Restuccia’s persistent advocacy," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. "Rob improved access to health care for people in the Commonwealth and nationally while inspiring and teaching current and future health care leaders. He will always be a health care hero to me.”
The family will welcome friends and colleagues to a celebration of Rob’s life on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at 10:30 am at the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts.
In addition, the advocacy community, health care industry groups, policymakers and many others will have the opportunity to honor Rob Restuccia and his numerous contributions to America’s health justice movement at the ‘Together For The People’ event to take place on April 30th at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Benefits from this event will support the on-going work of the two powerful consumer organizations that Rob built from the ground up, Health Care For All and Community Catalyst.
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Health Care For All (HCFA) is a nonprofit organization that promotes health justice in Massachusetts by working to reduce disparities and ensure coverage and access for all. We achieve this as leaders in public policy, advocacy, education and service to consumers in Massachusetts. For more information about HCFA, visit our website at www.hcfama.org. You can also call our free HelpLine (800) 272-4232 if you need help applying for health insurance.