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Policy Matters

December 1, 2006

Author: Anne Erickson

“Policy matters,” Jim Tallon, President of the Untied Hospital Fund (UHF) declared as he opened a recent UHF conference on health care financing and delivery in New York State.  “And,” he said, “policy is back.”

That captures the most powerful and positive buzz humming through state government right now.  Policy discussions are back and dialogue is opening up.  We know we may not – in fact probably won’t – agree with the new administration on every decision and each detail of re-designing programs and services in New York – but what an amazing breath of fresh air to actually be discussing policy options again.

Indeed, to help the transition get underway, Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer created over a dozen committees to delve into everything from agriculture to homeland security.  These committees are reporting back as we go to print and will offer the new Governor a snapshot of key issues in each of these broad policy arenas.

We’ve been working on the number of fronts.  On the desperate need for increased investment in civil legal services, we have met with members of Governor-elect’s Human Services, Government Reform and Criminal Justice Transition Teams.  And as we note to them, the very fact that as an issue civil legal services doesn’t even have a clear “table” to be responsible for it is testimony to the years of neglect we’ve had in this state.  They are making no promises, but they are asking questions, engaging the issue, thinking things through with us.

On health care policy, the discussions are swirling around system designs, access, and coverage -- and putting the needs of the patient/consumer (the very patient consumer) at the center of the discussion.  In human services, the talk is of structures and systems that will deliver, not deny services.  The language of economic security is now used again when taking about children and families.

Heady days these.  Its early, its new, it is policy and not yet governance.  But there’s a new wind blowing through state government:  Policy matters; policy is back.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season to all – and to hitting the ground running Day One.


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