Getting Ready for the Fast Lane

Yesterday, the MassACT Coalition held a State House rally to celebrate the collection of more than 75,000 of the 100,000 signature drive to place real health reform before the Massachusetts electorate in November 2006. Here’s the account from State House News:

“HEALTH CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCES SIGNATURE SUCCESS: As House leaders put finishing touches on their health care reform and insurance expansion proposal, proponents of a proposed ballot law overhauling the health care system announced today that they have collected 75,000 signatures and plan to reach 100,000 in the coming weeks. The grass roots organizers, under the oversight of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, say their army of 2,000 volunteers includes barbers and bishops, and construction workers and nurses. Signatures have been gathered in 336 of the state’s 351 cities and towns. Petition sponsors need to ultimately present 65,825 certified voter signatures. Campaigns often shoot to gather more signatures, since some are ruled ineligible. The measure, if adopted by voters, would expand Medicaid eligibility and benefits, repeal a $160 million uncompensated care surcharge paid by insurers and employers who offer health benefits, raise the per-pack cigarette tax by 60 cents, to $2.11, creates an assessment on employers to make sure all businesses are contributing to health care coverage costs, and adds smoking and tobacco cessation treatment and information to the MassHealth benefit package.”

Here’s my personal take: I’ve been involved in many coalitions over about 28 years in politics. I’ve never been involved in a coalition as real and dynamic as MassACT. It’s broad and deep. It’s so much more than smoke and mirrors, it’s real. Congrats to David Jordan and Lisa Vinikoor who run MassACT, to Cheri Andes and those incredible clergy from GBIO, to Harris Gruman from Neighbor to Neighbor, to Dan Gilbarg from Coalition for Social Justice, to Celia Wcislo from SEIU Local 1199, to Joe Dart and Frank Callahan from Mass. Building Trades Council, to Phil Villers from Families USA, to Mark Govoni from United Food and Commercial Workers, and to Fawn Phelps, Brian Rosman and an amazing crew from Health Care For All and the entire 30 Winter Street gang.

Beginning on Monday when the Health Care Financing Committee releases its bill, there will no longer be three bills in play, just one. As my friend Judy Meredith would say, get ready for the fast lane.

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