BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on Monday signed into law a bill he said should provide a model for a nation trying to stem the spiraling cost of health care.
The Democrat was joined by lawmakers, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and health care advocates as he signed the bill at a Statehouse ceremony.
Patrick praised the state’s recent efforts to expand access to health coverage, adding that the new law will build off of the 2006 landmark health care law signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney that became the model for the federal law signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama.
Patrick said the new law will mark the “next big step forward” in the state’s health care system and represents the link between improved care and lower costs. Massachusetts already has the highest percent of insured residents of any state in the country at about 98 percent, according to the administration.
“Massachusetts has been a model for the nation for access to health care,” Patrick said before signing the bill. “Today we become the first to crack the code on costs.”
The legislation aims to control health care costs that have continued to grow following the 2006 law, which requires nearly all residents to have health insurance coverage.
The bill is intended to save Massachusetts up to $200 billion in health care costs over the next 15 years by encouraging the creation of “accountable care organizations” that take a more coordinated approach to medicine. It’s also designed to give residents better access to their medical records and cut down on unnecessary testing.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has focused on what she calls the dysfunction in the health care market brought on in part by the disparity in hospital costs, said she was “pretty happy with this bill.”
She said that there is still dysfunction in the health care market, but the new law provides her office with more oversight tools.
“We’re not trying to overregulate (the market), we’re trying to find that sweet spot,” she said. “We’re going to continue our watchdog role.”