President Obama will travel Wednesday to Boston, delivering remarks promoting the Affordable Care Act at Faneuil Hall, the same location where then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed Massachusetts' 2006 universal coverage legislation.
"It does serve as the blue print for the Affordable Care Act," David Simas, White House deputy senior adviser for communications and strategy, said Tuesday of Massachusetts' health reform.
In keeping with that theme, Simas told reporters that the event will likely highlight enrollment trends during the Massachusetts' law's first year: Just 123 people signed up during the Bay State's first month of open enrollment. By contrast, 20 percent of the first year's 36,000 enrollees purchased coverage in the last month before an individual mandate penalty kicked in.
"It’s a very, very good lesson in terms of what we know about this kind of reform," Simas said.
Massachusetts' health reform law, which served as a model for the Affordable Care Act, reduced the state's uninsured rate from 9.6 percent in 2006 to 5.6 percent in 2010. Like the national law, it requires people to carry health insurance coverage -- and provides low- to middle-income people with financial help to purchase an insurance plan.
In 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, fewer than 1 percent of 6.6 million residents -- approximately 44,000 people -- were assessed a penalty for not carrying coverage.
Simas was joined by two architects of the Massachusetts health reforms who also cautioned against expecting large enrollment numbers in the health law's early months.
"The fact that people aren't signed up now is not at all interesting or important," Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jon Gruber said. "The success of health care reform has to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks."
At the same time, they cautioned against making any comparisons between the Massachusetts' online insurance portal, called the Connector, and the health law's marketplace, Healthcare.gov, which has had a tumultuous rollout.
"We had one state with hundreds of thousands of uninsured people rather than three-quarters of the country," said Jon Kingsdale, former executive managing director of Wakely Consulting Group and founding executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector.