The Massachusetts Legislature completed the first stage of passing a constitutional amendment that would require the state to guarantee all residents access to "comprehensive, affordable, equitably financed" health insurance covering "all medically necessary preventive, acute and chronic healthcare and mental care services." The earliest the amendment could be adopted is 2006, since it must clear the Legislature in the next session as well, before being put on a ballot for voters to accept or reject. The Massachusetts Hospital Association supports the amendment philosophically but has concerns that its long life cycle could impede incremental steps to improve coverage, a spokesman said.
The proposed amendment, which cleared a constitutional convention 143-41, "was a huge statement by the Legislature," said Barbara Roop, co-chair and manager of the Health Care for Massachusetts Campaign, which wrote the amendment and collected the 90,000 signatures required to put it on the docket. Illinois once considered a universal coverage amendment but it was defeated at the polls, and North Carolina has a similar proposal pending, Roop said. -- by Jeff Tieman