It’s been six years since Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts healthcare reform law. That law was a framework for change, a values statement about what we believe in Massachusetts: that health is a public good and that everyone deserves access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.
Six years after its passage, our experiment in universal healthcare is working, expanding coverage while helping to control costs. Mitt Romney should be proud of the law he signed. As the one responsible for implementing it, I know I am. Here’s why.
More people have health insurance in Massachusetts than anywhere else in the country: 98.1 percent of our total population. Of our children, 99.8 percent are covered. While the number of people without health insurance in America grew from 2006 to 2010, more than 400,000 people in Massachusetts gained coverage.
This isn’t because government took over. Massachusetts healthcare reform, like the national Affordable Care Act, takes a hybrid approach to increasing coverage, encouraging people to get health insurance in the private market and subsidizing the cost for those who can’t afford it. Here again, it is working. More businesses offer their employees private healthcare today than did before the law was signed. The 77 percent of Massachusetts businesses that offer their employees private insurance is well above the national norm.
Most important, people in Massachusetts are healthier and getting better care. 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 prenatal care, and visits to emergency rooms have decreased. After we expanded coverage for smoking cessation programs, 150,000 people stopped smoking, and a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research documents improvements in physical health, mental health, functional limitations and joint disorders as a result of the law. While everyone is better off, women, minorities and low-income residents saw the biggest health improvements. I have met individuals whose lives have been saved by the access to good care our model made possible.