Thursday, October 31

President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick on the Affordable Care Act

Boston, Massachusetts

GOVERNOR PATRICK: How are you? Good afternoon, everybody. (Applause.) How’s Red Sox Nation this afternoon? (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, I have the high honor of introducing to you the President of the United States. (Applause.) But, of course, you folks already know him. (Laughter.) So as the President is standing just offstage, I want to take my time here at the podium -- (laughter) -- to introduce all of you to him.

In this storied hall today, Mr. President, are the architects and advocates for health care reform in Massachusetts. (Applause.) This gathering right here 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. (Applause.)

You 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 that every citizen deserves access to quality, affordable care. (Applause.)

Quality, affordable care accessible to all 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. (Applause.)

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And by every reasonable measure, it has been a success for us here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (Applause.) How do we know? Virtually, every resident in the commonwealth is insured today. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.) Most important of all, on a whole range 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 finally easing up. Premium base rates were increasing over 16 percent just a few years ago. Today, increases average less than 2 percent. (Applause.)

And thanks to the President, America can look forward to the successes that Massachusetts has experienced these last seven years. (Applause.)

The truth is policy only matters when and where 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 -- where are you, Laura? There you are. Owns her own hair salon and is responsible for providing health insurance to her family of five, including her son, Mason, who’s right here with her. Mason has a rare genetic condition. Laura is able to afford his medicine because they found coverage through our Connecter, our version of the ACA marketplace. This policy matters. (Applause.)

David Gilloran works as a waiter. Where are you David? There you are. Thank you for being here. 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. God bless you, David. (Applause.)

Brian Thurber left his law firm job to become an entrepreneur in Massachusetts. Brian, where are you? There he is. 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 to a health emergency along the way. Keep going. Good luck to you. (Applause.)

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 sometime 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. (Applause.)

My Republican predecessor signed the legislation to expand health care reform in Massachusetts right here in this room, on this very stage. His chief legislative partner was the Democratic state senator, Robert Travaglini, who was here then and is here today. Where are you, Trav? Thank you. (Applause.)

So was our beloved Ted Kennedy. So were many of the members of the coalition who are here again today. And they have worked right alongside my team and me these last seven years to refine and improve the means while staying true to the ends. I am proud of what we and they have accomplished, and I think they’re proud, too, and ought to be. (Applause.)

But our launch seven years ago was not flawless. (Laughter.) We asked an IT staffer who has been at our Connector since the beginning what the start of implementing reform was like. And this is what he said, and I’m quoting: “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.” (Laughter.)

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? Why? Because health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website. It’s a values statement. (Applause.) It's about insuring people against a medical catastrophe. It's about being our brothers' and our 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. (Applause.) The urgency of fixing what's not working is, as we all know, about the American people who need simple, reliable and convenient access to information about coverage -- not about silencing critics who will never be silenced.

You and the Congress looked to Massachusetts, Mr. President, 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 also want to be a model for how to keep your eye on the prize, and how, working together, you put people first. (Applause.) The people here, all in this coalition, totally get that.

So, Mr. President, welcome to the capital of Red Sox Nation. (Applause.) And welcome, also, to the future of affordable, accessible health care for everybody. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Boston! (Applause.) It's good to be back in Boston. (Applause.) It's good to be back in Boston because one of America's best governors introduced me -- Deval Patrick. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)

It's good to see Congressman Bill Keating here. Give Bill a big round of applause. (Applause.) I want to praise somebody who's not here -- I just left him -- but he wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves this city so much, and it shows in what he's been doing for years now -- one of America's best mayors, Tom Menino. (Applause.)

And it's good to see all of you. I was just at the airport -- Deval was kind enough to meet me, along with Mayor Menino. And Mayor Menino went back to city hall to work so he could wrap up in time for the first pitch. I understand that. (Laughter.) I am well aware that a presidential visit is not the biggest thing going on today in Boston. (Laughter and applause.) I understand that. I tried to grow a beard, but Michelle, she wasn't having it. (Laughter.)

I am also old enough to remember a time when the Red Sox were not in the World Series three times in 10 years. (Laughter.) But I know the chance to win one at home for the first time since 1918 is a pretty special thing. (Applause.) So I promise we will be done here in time -- (laughter) -- for everybody to head over to Fenway and maybe see Big Papi blast another homer. (Applause.)

And maybe the other Sox will do better next year. (Laughter.) You can hope. You can dream. (Laughter.)

The reason I’m here, though, is because this is the hall where, seven years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together to make health reform a reality for the people of Massachusetts. It’s where then-Governor Mitt Romney, Democratic legislators, Senator Ted Kennedy, many of the folks who are here today joined forces to connect the progressive vision of health care for all with some ideas about markets and competition that had long been championed by conservatives.

And as Deval just said, it worked. (Applause.) It worked. Health reform --

PROTESTORS: Mr. President -- don't punish me. For our generation, stop the pipeline! Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. We're talking about health care today, but we will --

PROTESTORS: Mr. President --


THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, it’s okay. That is the wrong rally. (Laughter and applause.) We had the climate change rally back in the summer. (Laughter.) This is the health care rally. (Applause.)

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