The past decade provides a useful window through which to examine whether states are likely to provide health care leadership. During this era, states were given increased discretion to set health care policy, they had the financial resources to encourage innovation, and their administrative capacity was at its strongest ever. Despite the favorable conditions, however, states were reluctant to spend their own funds on programs for the uninsured, their efforts to make private insurance more affordable for the small business community were disappointing, and their efforts to regulate the managed care industry fell short. At the same time, though, the most promising innovations over the past decade were in programs financed primarily with federal dollars,administered primarily by state officials, and advanced by an intergovernmental partnership in which administrators at different levels of government prod each other to try and do more. This sort of intergovernmental partnership provides the best model for innovative health policy leadership.