Duffett leaving after three decades with health care campaign

Duffett leaving after three decades with health care campaign

Jim Duffett, the executive director of Campaign for Better Health Care, has spent three decades working to expand health care in Illinois. Next month, he will leave the campaign and relocate to North Carolina. Here are 10 things to know about him.

1 Duffett, 56, of Urbana, started with Campaign for Better Health Care in 1989 and before that was executive director of the Danville Area Community Services Council for five years. The Campaign for Better Health Care (with offices in Champaign and Chicago) is a grass-roots coalition of more than 300 local and statewide organizations that believes accessible, affordable, quality health care is a right for all.

2 He counts as his major contributions working to ban door-to-door solicitation by the insurance industry for Medicaid-managed care plans and to enact a consumer-managed care bill of rights, the All Kids health insurance program and other Medicaid expansion and passage of the Health Care Justice Act of 2004.

The Health Care Justice Act, which President Barack Obama sponsored as a senator, set up the task force on which Duffett served that proposed changes in the state's health care system that were mirrored in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Illinois Covered plan.

3 One fond memory is having had the honor of working with Obama on health care reform in Illinois during Obama's years as a senator, and now, "knowing he is the president and still knows you," Duffett says.

Duffett recalls reaching out to shake Obama's hand at a Families USA conference in January 2011, and the president greeting him warmly by name.

4 He is leaving his job and Illinois because his wife, Leslie Martin, just finished her advance practice nursing degree and is applying to jobs in the Research Triangle area.

5 It was now or never for them to make the move, before their son, Zachary, who just finished third grade, gets much older, Duffett says. Plus, he and his wife were married in North Carolina.

6 His own future plans are up in the air, but he's had overtures to teach a class or two and may do some consulting, and he's tried over the last few months to wade into North Carolina's social justice movement. "I want to stay in an area that improves the lives of people and society as a whole," he says.

7 His opinion on Obamacare's future? Like Social Security and Medicare, it will be tweaked and improved many times, but it's here to stay, Duffett predicts.

8 What does Illinois still need to do for the ACA? Pass legislation to approve a state-based insurance marketplace, he says.

The marketplace offering Affordable Care Act health insurance plans to the public went forward with a state-federal partnership in Illinois for the first year. Duffett and his organization argue Illinois needs to take control of its own marketplace to provide greater flexibility and a greater ability to establish checks and balances on the insurance industry. But unless this step is taken by mid-November, the state will lose millions of dollars in federal money set aside for this purpose.

9 The big change he hopes to see in his lifetime and will continue working for? A single-payer health care system for the U.S. Duffett contends the insurance industry is "a leach" on the system, piling on 15 percent to 20 percent of administrative costs on every dollar spent on health care.

10 Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, recalls Duffett's role in championing the expansion of Medicaid coverage over the years.

"When CCHCC and Jim Duffett's Campaign for Better Health Care have collaborated around getting legislation passed, it has been very powerful," she says. "Jim knows Springfield inside and out, and his organization has been instrumental in advancing the legislative process."