Health Policy Reform in America: Innovations from the States

By Howard M. Leichter | Go to book overview

8
Universal Health Care in Massachusetts: Lessons for the Future

Camille Ascuaga

The story of universal health care in Massachusetts attests to the inherent vulnerability and fragility of state policy reforms. Once the favorite child of a Democratic governor and his administration, the universal health care law fell into disfavor when a new governor and a different party came to power in Massachusetts. On January 1, 1991, William Weld, a Republican, was sworn in as governor, capping an election campaign that promised the downsizing of state government and the repeal of the universal health care law. To the new administration, the controversial law symbolized all that was ill-fated and short-sighted about government solutions to human problems. Charging that the law would destroy small business and draw the uninsured from across state borders, the administration repeatedly and, as yet, unsuccessfully sought the law's repeal. Despite the fact that the law remains on the books, its promise has been stifled by political leadership that no longer supports it. Most of the law's earlier supporters and implementers have found other causes or jobs on which to focus their energies. The law has become a shadow of its earlier self; its demise appears certain.

In this chapter, I will chronicle the development and apparent demise of the Massachusetts Universal Health Care Law. Beginning with

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