Mass. Health Care Law Turns Five

By Sarah Birnbaum

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On Apr. 12, 2006, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with Mass. Health and Human Services Secy. Timothy Murphy as Sen. Edward Kennedy looks on at after signing into law a landmark bill designed to guarantee virtually all Massachusetts residents have health insurance. (AP)

BOSTON — Massachusetts' landmark universal health care law turns five Tuesday. State leaders are celebrating the occasion -- and some are using it to point out that it was passed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, who is expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination.

At an event on Tuesday, state Democrats rolled out a white cake that read, "Mass. health care a model for the nation, thank you Mitt." The law, which requires all Massachusetts residents to have health insurance, was signed by Romney in 2006. It's a move many see as a vulnerability for Romney as he works to increase his appeal to GOP voters, who are generally against President Obama's health care reform package, which was modeled on the Massachusetts law.

Romney, for his part, has defended the Massachusetts law, but said he never intended it to be extended to all 50 states.

Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh also paid a more serious tribute to the law, saying it has increased coverage of children and helped decrease racial disparities in health care quality.

At an event marking the anniversary on Monday, Governor Patrick said that thanks to the law, more than 98% of Bay State residents have health insurance.  And he proudly noted that Massachusetts health reform laid the groundwork for Obama’s health care overhaul.

 But Patrick also said that more work needs to be done to make health insurance more affordable.
 
In the coming weeks, the Legislature will hold hearings on a number of health care cost containment measures, including a controversial plan called "global payments" that would change the ways doctors and hospitals get paid.


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