Expanding access to health care and improving quality while containing costs are issues Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick says are central to his administration.
Patrick delivered the opening welcome to members of the Association of Health Care Journalists on March 14 in Boston, where the group is holding its annual meeting, Health Journalism 2013.
The governor called the 2006 Massachusetts health insurance reform law a success in that it gives residents nearly universal care, with more businesses offering health care and nearly 90 percent of residents having a primary care physician.
He said more cancer screenings are being performed than before while visits to emergency departments have decreased.
“We are healthier because of it,” Patrick said. “Women, minorities and low-income people have experienced the biggest health improvements, but it’s been true, really, across the board.”
Last August, Patrick signed a bill into law authorizing measures to ensure state spending on health care rose no faster than the growth of the overall state economy, which Patrick claimed would save the Commonwealth $200 billion over the next 15 years.
“It makes the link many have long recognized between better health and lower costs,” Patrick said. “We are moving away from a sick care system to a true health care system. A system that moves away from fee-for-service care to paying for health outcomes and quality of care.”
Patrick continued: “I am confident that Massachusetts will be the place that cracks the code on cost containment.”
Patrick said he was struck by seeing polling data showing that the Affordable Care Act had a 50:50 split approval rating, while the Massachusetts plan, the model for the ACA, polled at a 70 percent approval rating.
Implementing the ACA will take time and care, Patrick said.
“There will undoubtedly be challenges and hiccups along the way,” Patrick said. “But we will come back to our core principles that health is a public good and that all Americans deserve access to quality, affordable care, and that we remember that the success of the ACA depends on the same formula that has made Massachusetts health reform successful.”
Patrick was introduced by Gideon Gil, health and science editor for The Boston Globe, with a PowerPoint presentation depicting Patrick’s head inserted over former Gov. Mitt Romney’s at the signing ceremony for what’s been called Romneycare.
As Gil described Patrick’s cost reduction actions of last summer, a slide appeared on the screen in the amphitheater of the Seaport World Trade Center displaying what Gil thought focus groups are calling Patrick’s scheme:
“For those of you tweeting, I’m just kidding,” Gil said.