RSG Celebrates 25 Years of Identifying, Informing, and Inspiring State Health Policy Leaders

September 26, 2017

Program:  Reforming States Group

“Twenty-five years ago, when this foundation saw that the federal government was incapable of addressing the health care concerns of its citizenry, we had the vision to connect the states to each other and we with them. That vision is as valid today as it was then.” These were the opening remarks of Samuel L. Milbank, chair of the Board of the Milbank Memorial Fund, given at the Reforming States Group (RSG) Steering Committee meeting at the end of August.

This fall marks the 25th anniversary of the RSG, which began as a bipartisan coalition of elected officials and health policymakers who took the initiative in proposing a state-federal partnership strategy in health reform in November 1992. At that time, the Milbank Memorial Fund invited leaders from five states that had passed significant health reform legislation (Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont) to meet at Mount Hood in Oregon. After three days of intense discussion, which dissected and analyzed what had happened in each state, these leaders reached consensus on the essential steps for achieving success in health reform at the state level. The resulting publication by the Fund, The States That Could Not Wait, was widely circulated and used as a guidebook by other states.

Over the past 25 years, the RSG has grown to include participants from all 50 states and Washington, DC, as well as from Australia, Canada, England, and Scotland. The RSG and the Fund continue their longstanding partnership—with the Fund providing staff and financial support for meetings, projects, and state-to-state technical assistance.

In 1992, “the RSG provided a safe zone for state leaders to develop common principles and practical strategies for state reform that could be readily adapted in various political and economic climates,” said Rachel Block, who attended a pre-RSG meeting in 1991 and is now a program officer at the Fund. “Bringing senior legislators and governors staffs together helped lay the groundwork for constructive action when people returned home. Health reform requires thinking globally and acting locally, and for 25 years the RSG has provided the space for state leaders to bring those pieces together.”

The anniversary was marked by a conversation at the Steering Committee meeting between Christopher F. Koller, president of the Fund, and founding RSG members Mark Gibson and Linda Berglin, both of whom reflected on the early days of the RSG.

“The demand for strong state health policy leadership has never been greater,” said Koller. “The Fund is honored to help identify, inform and inspire these people through the work of the RSG.”

To read more about the origins of the RSG, visit the 25th Anniversary of the RSG webpage, which includes both a history and recollections from current and former members.