Rob Restuccia, a fierce advocate for improving health care, dies at 69

Boston, MA., 06/29/12, A roundtable discussion at The Boston Globe with health care experts on the supreme court ruling. Robert Restuccia, Community Catalysts. Section: Business Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Mr. Restuccia co-founded Health Care For All in Massachusetts.

Two years in the past, when Republicans in Congress, buoyed by President Trump, had been devising plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reshape such essential applications as Medicaid, senior officers in Governor Charlie Baker’s administration wanted to know reply.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders repeatedly turned to 1 individual within the know: Robert Restuccia.

For three many years, Mr. Restuccia labored with trade executives and politicians from each main events to push for better entry to inexpensive care for all Americans. He died at his Jamaica Plain dwelling Sunday of pancreatic most cancers, in line with Community Catalyst, an advocacy group he ran for 18 years. He was 69.

Sudders and Mr. Restuccia talked frequently in 2017 — he was one of many favorites on her iPhone — and people conversations helped her and the governor develop a technique for combating any nationwide proposals that would destabilize the Massachusetts health care system.

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“It was like a source of truth coming from him,” Sudders stated. “I completely trusted the information. That was the thing about Rob.”

Mr. Restuccia helped launch two Boston-based teams however was recognized nationwide. From throughout the nation on Monday, health care specialists, trade leaders, and present and former public officers mourned him and praised his years of labor. They known as him a key motive why Massachusetts now leads the nation in insurance coverage protection for its residents.

“Massachusetts today would be nowhere near what it is — one of the best, when it comes to health care — if it weren’t for Rob,” stated former governor Michael Dukakis.

Dukakis was governor when Mr. Restuccia co-founded Health Care For All, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of Massachusetts sufferers and shoppers.

At the time, health coverage was being crafted with enter from the trade, however “there was no voice at the table for consumers,” stated Susan Sherry, deputy director of Community Catalyst.

Mr. Restuccia wished to alter that.

“Without question the thing he was proudest of is having people being harmed by the system speaking out and becoming part of the solution,” Sherry stated.

Mr. Restuccia was government director of Health Care For All from 1989 to 2003. The group stays energetic on Beacon Hill and runs a assist line for shoppers combating medical protection and prices.

From 2000 to 2018, Mr. Restuccia ran Community Catalyst, a sister group that focuses on health care advocacy at the nationwide stage and works with teams in different states to advertise client protections.

“There are millions of Americans who have unknowingly benefited from Rob’s work,” stated Anthony Wright, government director of Health Access California, an advocacy group. “Whether it is people who have Medicaid coverage, are no longer dealing with a surprise medical bill, are benefiting from a hospital charity program — those are people who may not have gotten that without Rob’s work.”

Mr. Restuccia additionally helped develop the concept behind Commonwealth Care Alliance, a Boston-based health care supplier and insurer centered on poor and weak populations.

He was significantly pleased with the passage of a 1996 Massachusetts legislation that prolonged health insurance coverage to all youngsters within the state, which was funded by a controversial improve within the tobacco tax.

“I have not met an advocate since who was more effective,” stated state Senator Mark Montigny, a New Bedford Democrat who co-sponsored that laws. “Rob could come in the room with all these different personalities and no one pushed him around. I think people respected that he was in it for the right reasons.”

Another milestone in Mr. Restuccia’s profession was Massachusetts’ 2006 legislation to increase insurance coverage protection to all residents, signed by Governor Mitt Romney, and the 2010 passage of the federal Affordable Care Act. He mobilized advocates to battle to assist the ACA, which stays in place regardless of a number of makes an attempt at repeal.

Mr. Restuccia was a pragmatist. He believed “you needed to work with all allies. You needed to build broad coalitions. You have to be cognizant of the political realities and move from there. I think that was what made him stand out,” stated his spouse, Emily Feinberg.

In addition to Feinberg, a nurse practitioner and professor, Mr. Restuccia leaves two youngsters, Dan and Nina, and 4 grandchildren.

Mr. Restuccia grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Belmont. His household didn’t have health insurance coverage, in order that they rallied collectively when somebody turned sick.

“Rob had a sense of, ‘We’ve got to help other people, we’re not in this alone.’ He developed a very strong sense of social justice as a child,” stated his older brother, Joseph, a professor at Boston University.

Rob Restuccia attended Harvard University on a scholarship, graduating in 1971. He thought of attending medical faculty, however after working as a hospital orderly and observing the struggles of sufferers with out health insurance coverage, he opted for a profession in advocacy.

Mr. Restuccia sought to instill a sense of social justice in his youngsters. His daughter recalled how he helped her type a scholar group to protest price range cuts in elementary faculty. She additionally obtained an uncommon ebook as a Christmas current from her dad.

“I was pretty sure I was the only one of my friends getting the 10-year-old’s guide for being an advocate,” stated Nina Restuccia, now 36.

Baker, considered one of many elected officers who labored with Mr. Restuccia, known as him “a giant in changing the way people thought about health insurance.”

“He taught us that advocacy is about creating allies and finding common ground, and I will always admire the way he effectively went about his work,” stated Baker, a former health insurance coverage government, in a assertion. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will forever be a more kind and caring place because of Rob.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who met Mr. Restuccia when she was a legislation professor engaged on analysis about medical debt, stated “Massachusetts lost one of its greatest champions and leading lights, but Rob’s legacy will live on in our fight to guarantee affordable health care to every person in this country.”

Mr. Restuccia was recognized in September — simply weeks after an annual mountaineering journey to Alaska together with his spouse. He obtained therapy at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

He spent his final days in his bed room, within the dwelling the place he and his spouse lived for 38 years.

Mr. Restuccia wrote a shifting essay that was printed within the Globe final week.

“Mortality does not terrify me now,” he wrote. “For I can imagine my grandchildren one day living in a society where health care is a right and not a privilege, because of the many people who will continue to do the work that has been so important to me.”

A celebration of Mr. Restuccia’s life will probably be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the First Parish in Brookline. Health care advocates plan to honor him at an April 30 fund-raiser at the Boston Park Plaza.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey will be reached at Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.

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