Health Bill Insider Joins Hunter College

John E. McDonough
For John E. McDonough, helping write the health care overhaul bill triggered a rollercoaster of emotions. "There were many discouraging moments, though I and other staffers were mostly positive most of the time," says McDonough, who until January was a senior adviser to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. For the spring semester, McDonough is the inaugural Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College.

"Most of us were there because we believed it could happen and because we believed the key Senate and House leaders were determined to make it happen," he says.

President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping social legislation in decades, on March 23 after a yearlong battle. When the bill passed, McDonough says, everyone who supported it thought of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who had made passing the legislation his life's work. He died of cancer last summer. "Just before the final vote, the Senate had a moment of silence in his memory," says McDonough, a leading architect of the Massachusetts health insurance overhaul, whom Kennedy asked to help write the national health-care bill. "Even without him, his spirit has been an animating force throughout."

McDonough, who is writing a book on the national health reform law and process, says the bill "establishes a new, and we hope, enduring framework to tackle the immense challenges and obstacles ahead ... [and it's] the beginning of a new chapter in U.S. health policy history -- where we finally have been able to turn a vital corner and get things right."