08/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Wisconsin and Massachusetts Urge Federal Action on Health Care

Our country faces the best opportunity in decades to provide affordable, quality health care for all our citizens and contain spiraling costs. Our states serve as models for national reform. Building on some of the lessons we have learned, we need federal action now.

Massachusetts and Wisconsin have been innovation leaders in health care coverage. Both of our states have worked hard to address costs, and increase access and quality. That means that in Wisconsin, every child has access to health care coverage, as does 98 percent of the state. In Massachusetts, virtually all of our residents are currently insured.

We have seen how smart, modest investments can prevent more costly expenditures down the road. We have worked to expand coverage while at the same time saving money in the Medicaid program. We have promoted cost-effective, preventative, evidence-based care to drive out inefficiency. And we have achieved these gains in spite of unprecedented budget challenges, often by keeping the rate of health care cost increases far below national averages.

And while we are proud of our successes, we are deeply committed to seeing federal action that will move us further forward.

The case for change is clear. We have a health care system that costs our families and our businesses too much for what it delivers. Continually rising health care costs are hurting families working to make ends meet and businesses trying to compete and create jobs. And here's the rub: escalating costs are a national problem with or without expanded coverage. Everyone has a stake in health care reform.

Now is no time to shrink from the challenge or to let health reform fail again because of politics. Tough budget times are no excuse: both Wisconsin and Massachusetts are required by law to pass balanced budgets, and the economic crisis has meant we face the same kinds of enormous financial strains as the critics of reform. But health care reforms are themselves essential to improve our economy and the lives of working families. In fact, the current economic difficulty is reason to move forward. And political expedience is a poor answer to the need for change.

There is one other lesson we learned in the course of reforming health care in our states that is worth remembering in the midst of the current health reform debate: that a perfect solution and no solution were not our only choices. A broad coalition of health care providers, medical experts, business leaders, policy makers and advocates came together to develop our respective reforms, and stayed together to refine them as we moved forward. Because of that, residents of our states get better care at better rates.

President Obama and Congressional leaders are moving in the right direction, and the opportunity to reform health care is within reach. The rest of the nation should rally to their support.

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