Health care reform is a hot topic again. President Bush is rolling out a series of initiatives to improve health insurance coverage. Congress is poised to approve a 1,000-page budget reconciliation bill with dozens of key changes to Medicaid and Medicare. CMS continues to work hard to implement the Medicare drug benefit. And the national Medicaid reform commission is holding meetings to construct a package of long-range reforms to the world’s most complex health program.

Through all of this, states remain the nation’s laboratories for genuine health reform. One of the many advantages of our Federalist system is the ability of states to design and test new approaches. State-based reforms are inherently more pragmatic – allowing for faster, less risky implementations and designs that reflect local political and market needs. Compared to federal agencies, states are closer to the ground level, more nimble in responding to inevitable problems, better positioned to partner with employers, and tend to have a deeper bench of real-world, operational expertise.

In Massachusetts, Governor Mitt Romney’s health reform plan will cover virtually all of the Commonwealth’s uninsured by 2009. It’s an ingenious mix of Medicaid financing, market reforms, and public-private partnerships. In Michigan, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has proposed her own innovative health reform initiative – Michigan First Health Care Plan – to cover over a half million uninsured Michiganders. The good folks at Sellers Feinberg, experts in Medicaid restructuring and super waivers, are advisors to both states.

Governors Romney and Granholm differ in many respects, most notably politics and state situations. However, they share the same goal and have the courage to think out of the box and take action.