News & Events

Congratulations to all of us!!! Winning Vote Taken 7.14.2004 on Massachusetts’ Health Care Constitutional Amendment


Legislature approves health care coverage as constitutional right
Jennifer Peter, Associated Press, July 14, 2004

BOSTON — Comprehensive and affordable health care coverage would become a constitutionally-protected right for all Massachusetts citizens under an amendment overwhelming approved Wednesday by a joint session of the House and Senate.

If approved by lawmakers again during the 2005-2006 session, the question would go before voters in November 2006. If successful, the state would then develop a specific plan for providing and paying for health care.

Under a change approved Wednesday, which made the amendment more palatable to some lawmakers, the payment and coverage plan would go back to voters for further approval, in November 2008 at the earliest.

”We’re trying to provide justice in health care so that every single citizen has a health care plan,” said Sen. Steven Tolman, D-Boston. ”It is the citizens of Massachusetts that we are all looking out for here.”

The amendment, which would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to constitutionally guarantee health coverage for its citizens, was initiated by a petition signed by more than 70,000 registered voters.

Because voters sponsored the initiative, it requires support from only 51 of the 200 state representatives and senators as part of the constitutional convention. The vote, however, was overwhelming, with lawmakers approving it 153-41.

The amendment states that ”it shall be the obligation and duty of the Legislature and executive officials … to enact and implement such laws as will ensure that no Massachusetts resident lack comprehensive, affordable and equitably financed health insurance coverage for all medically necessary preventive, acute and chronic health care and mental health care services, prescription drugs and devices.”

Following the vote, Senate President Robert Travaglini, D-Boston, adjourned the constitutional convention that began earlier this year with the much-debated approval of a ban on gay marriage. That ban would simultaneously legalize civil unions if approved again by the Legislature during the next two-year legislative session, and by voters in the fall of 2006.

The adjournment effectively killed amendments that would have led to the election of judges an initiative fueled by a high court decision that legalized gay marriage and made it more difficult for citizens to put policy questions on the ballot.

The co-leader of the Health Care for Massachusetts Campaign called Wednesday’s vote ”a tremendous victory” for state voters who worked to put the question on the ballot.

”The Legislature responded to their hopes that we can find a solution to their to their number one worry, which is the affordability of health insurance,” said campaign co-chairwoman Barbara Roop.

The campaign argues that providing universal coverage, through a variety of public and private means, could be paid through with $5.7 billion in unnecessary costs currently built into the state’s health care system.

Bill Vernon of the National Federation for Independent Business says that the pricetag would be immense, into the ”billions and billions of dollars.”

”We all wish that we had affordable and comprehensive health care, but the fact is that if it were that easy to do, there would have been 50 states and a Congress doing it years ago,” Vernon said.

The change approved by lawmakers, which requires voters to approve the specific plan some time in the future, will provide some safeguards, Vernon said, to ensure the amendment does not lead to tax increases that the voters are unwilling or unable to pay.