Governor Deval L. Patrick
Health Care Event with President Obama
Faneuil Hall, Boston
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have the high honor of introducing to you the President of the United States. 

But, folks, you already know him. 

Allow me, Mr. President, to use my time at the podium to introduce the people here to you.

In this storied hall today, Mr. President, are the architects and advocates for health care reform in Massachusetts.  This is the broad coalition -- providers, payers, patients, consumers, policymakers, academics, business and labor, from both political parties or no party at all – who came together to invent health care reform in Massachusetts and then, importantly, stuck together to refine it as we moved forward.

These are the leaders who, when we learned a hard lesson or hit a wall, stuck with it and with each other, because of the shared value that health care is a public good, and everyone deserves access to affordable, quality care.

Accessible, affordable, quality care in all cases improves lives and in many cases saves lives.  It gives peace of mind and economic security to working families.  It increases productivity for large and small employers alike.  It creates jobs and contributes to the strength of the Massachusetts economy.  It is a powerful statement of who we are as a Commonwealth.

And by every reasonable measure, it has been a success for Massachusetts.  

Virtually every resident in the Commonwealth is insured.  More private companies offer insurance to their employees than ever before.  Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician.  Preventive care is up, and health disparities are down.  

Most important of all, on a whole host of measures, we are healthier, both physically and mentally.

Over all these years, expansion itself has added only about 1 percent of state spending to our budget.

And thanks to the collective continued hard work of this coalition, premiums are easing up.  Premium base rates were increasing over 16 percent just a few years ago.  Today, increases average less than 2 percent.

Thanks to you, Mr. President, America can look forward to the successes that Massachusetts has experienced for the last 7 years.

Policy only matters when it touches people.  I know this policy matters because I’ve met people all across the Commonwealth, in every walk of life, whose lives have been improved or saved because of the care our reforms made possible.  A couple of them are here today.

Laura Ferreira owns her own hair salon and is responsible for providing health insurance to her family of five, including her son Mason who has a rare genetic condition.  Laura is able to afford his medicine because they found coverage through the Connector, our version of the ACA “Marketplace.”

David Gilloran works as a waiter.  Soon after getting coverage through the Connector, David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  His treatment was covered and he is back to his old life, and swimming for exercise.

Brian Thurber left his law firm job to become an entrepreneur in Massachusetts.  Because he was able to access quality insurance directly through the Connector, he is chasing his entrepreneurial dreams and on his way to becoming a creator of jobs for others – without being exposed by a health emergency.

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts people don’t fear going bankrupt from medical bills, or being thrown off their insurance if they get really sick, or being declared ineligible for insurance because they were seriously ill in the past. 

If policy matters where it touches people, Mr. President, this policy matters a lot.  Health care reform is working for the people of Massachusetts.  And it will work for the people of America.

My Republican predecessor signed the legislation to expand health care in Massachusetts right here in this room.  His chief legislative partner was the Democratic Senate President, Robert Travaglini, who was here then and is here today.  Many members of the coalition were also present that day.  And they have worked right alongside my team and me these last 7 years to refine and improve the means, while staying true to the ends.  I am proud of what we have accomplished, and so are they. 

But our launch 7 years ago was not flawless.

We asked an IT staffer, who has been at our Connector since the beginning, what the start of implementing reform was like?  Here’s what he said:

“We didn't have a complicated eligibility process back then, but we did have . . . outages caused by traffic peaks.  We experienced some issues with data mapping of plan detail that carriers called us on.  Our provider searches were not good and the website was a constant work in progress over the first few years.  But other than that, it was smooth.”

Any of this sound familiar, Mr. President? 

So, we started out with a website that needed work.  We had a lot of people with a lot of reasonable questions, and not a good enough way to get them the answers.  But people were patient, we had good leadership and that same coalition stuck with it and with us, to work through the fixes, tech surge and all.  Why?  Because health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website; it’s a values statement.  It’s about insuring people against a medical catastrophe.  It’s about being our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper by helping others help themselves.

The website glitches are inconvenient and annoying.  They must be fixed and I am confident they will be.  But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place.  The urgency of fixing what’s not working is, as you well know, for the American people who need simple, reliable and convenient access to information about coverage, not to silence the critics. 

You and the Congress looked to Massachusetts as a model for how to insure working people, and through that how to help them lead better, more productive lives.  As you turn to the vital work of making that federal IT system work, we want to be a model for how to keep your eye on the prize and how, working together, you put people first.  The people here with you today “get” that.

Mr. President, welcome to the capitol of Red Sox Nation and to the future of affordable, accessible health care for all. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.