Darn shame it requires a subscription, because today’s front page Wall Street Journal article on the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority is a gem. The article describes how ten individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and orientations came together to make the MA health reform law work. Nice details and a great set of board member profiles. A couple of excerpts:
Finding a consensus fell to a motley panel drawn from business, labor, academia and state government. On the liberal end was Celia Wcislo, a 55-year-old organizer with the Service Employees International Union who half-jokingly refers to insurers as “sleazeballs and bloodsuckers.” Her frequent adversary was Jonathan Gruber, a 41-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who had helped then-Gov. Mitt Romney develop the plan. A Democrat, Dr. Gruber was surprised to find himself on the conservative wing of the board.
The Connector board offered, in microcosm, a look at the collision of interests — business, labor, medical professionals and needy patients — that has derailed decades of efforts to reform the U.S. health-care system. When it comes to health-care reform, everyone’s second choice, after their own plan, has been the status quo. …
Richard Lord, head of an employers trade group, was irate. Mandating such comprehensive plans would force many employers that already provided insurance to upgrade to more-expensive policies.
On March 14, Mr. Lord gathered some 30 lobbyists and industry representatives, including the Chamber of Commerce, health-plan officials and retailers. They denounced the proposal in a tense meeting. “We decided we needed to go public,” Mr. Lord says. On March 20, the day the board was slated to vote on the issue, businesses’ concerns turned up in an article published on the front page of the Boston Globe.
Operating behind the scenes was the board’s executive director, 58-year-old Jon Kingsdale. A former top executive at Tufts Health Plan, a health insurer, Mr. Kingsdale struggled to come up with a compromise, as he called board members to test various proposals. The board ultimately went along with his suggestion to require slimmed-down drug coverage but delay implementation of the new requirements. In a meeting, Ms. Wcislo dropped her opposition to the lifetime caps after receiving an email on her BlackBerry from another board member. He asked if she realized that her own union insurance had a lifetime cap. She hadn’t.
On March 20, the morning of the vote, Mr. Lord was still planning to cast his ballot against the compromise, but changed his mind on the way to the meeting. “I had gotten what I needed,” he says, adding that a unanimous vote “sent a strong message that we’re all trying to work this out together.” …
The night before the April 12 meeting, Mr. Joffe-Halpern began his three-hour drive to Boston, stopping for dinner at a Pizza Hut. There he got a call saying people on both sides had agreed to the deal. Tears filled Mr. Joffe-Halpern’s eyes as he realized that the state plan might actually work. “Thank you, at last,” he thought.
The next morning, Dr. Gruber walked into the meeting feeling some “buyer’s remorse.” Like Mr. Joffe-Halpern a couple days earlier, Dr. Gruber wondered whether he had gone too far in accepting a compromise. Still everyone voted for the deal; the board members would agree that the compromises were fair to all interests involved.
Well deserved credit for the entire board.