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Association of Health Care Journalists Welcoming Remarks

Location: Boston, MA

Thank you, Gideon, for that warm welcome and for your leadership on the Association Board. And welcome everyone to Massachusetts. You are in the right place at the right time for a discussion on health care reform.

Throughout my time in office, health care has been a central issue: how to expand access, how to improve quality, how to control costs. Not surprisingly. In one form or another, health care affects everything: government, business and household budgets; people's ability to get a job; a child's readiness to learn. Given the significance of health care to so many aspects of our lives, I think we have been right to pay attention to these issues. Six years in, let me give you my perspective on where we are and where we're going.

By any measure, health care reform in Massachusetts has been a success.

Today we have virtually universal coverage.

More businesses offer health care to their employees today than before health reform took effect. 76 percent of Massachusetts businesses insure their employees, far more than before 2006 and well above the national average.

Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician, and 4 out of 5 have seen their doctor in the last 12 months.

Preventive care is up: more people are receiving cancer screenings, more women are getting pre-natal care and visits to emergency rooms have decreased. 150,000 people have stopped smoking because we expanded coverage for smoking cessation programs.

And we are healthier because of it. Women, minorities and low-income people have experienced the biggest health improvements. For example, Among Hispanic males, a notably under-insured population in Massachusetts before health care reform, the detection of testicular cancer has more than doubled and the majority of cases are now detected at an early stage. With increased access to screenings, we've seen a 36 percent decrease in cervical cancer in women.

By the way, expanding coverage added only about 1% more of state spending to our budget.

Those are the stats. But even better are the stories. I have met young women and men who have had their cancers detected and treated -- their lives saved -- because for the first time in their lives they have had access to care. I met a young entrepreneur who moved his business here from another state so that he could be assured health care for his young family during the early lean years of his business.

Policy matters where it touches people. Because health care reform in Massachusetts touches people in such positive ways, it has been a great success. I think that's why it continues to poll so favorably in public opinion surveys.

I think as important as the policy for us has been the values that underlie health care reform here and the means by which we have accomplished these results.

For us, health is a public good and we believe everyone deserves access to affordable, quality care. We see access as an expression of the kind of Commonwealth we want to live in. That value was meaningful enough in 2006 to compel a Republican Governor, a Democratic legislature and a Democratic United States Senator to work together with organized labor, business groups, medical professionals, and patient advocates to invent health care reform. And they stuck together to implement it. That was critical. I think we realized that this was too big an undertaking to simply pass legislation and leave things on automatic pilot.

That approach has been just as important in crafting and now implementing the next big chapter in health care reform in Massachusetts -- and that's cost containment.

Last August, I signed legislation that takes that next big step. The bill I signed makes the link many have long recognized between better health and lower costs. We are moving now away from a sick care system to a true health care system, away from fee-for-service care to paying for health outcomes and quality of care.

Through a series of tools ranging from enabling new care delivery models to capping the rate of overall cost growth to medical malpractice reform, our new law will result in nearly $200 billion in health care cost savings over the next 15 years. I am confident that, just as we showed the Nation how to deliver universal care, Massachusetts will be the place that cracks the code on health care costs.

We are working now on implementing the Affordable Care Act. It will take time and care and thoughtfulness, and there will undoubtedly be hiccups and challenges along the way. 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 we remember that the success of the ACA depends on the same formula that has made Massachusetts health reform successful -- that we do this important work together.

Thank you for having me. Enjoy your conference and your time in Boston.

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