Five years ago then- Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney passed his controversial state healthcare law that democrats are now celebrating. Here’s why Romney should also be celebrating.
The long-awaited sort-of announcement of the Romney’s painfully obvious presidential plans for 2012 were meant to overshadow the fifth anniversary of his state’s plan. Needless to say the mantra of Romney’s announcement was jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
But Romney knows full well he will not be able to disown his 5-year-old baby as the bastard child of a different time and place. Policies spawned by conservative Governors in liberal states don’t just stay there—they’ll be tugging on your coat tails all across the campaign trail.
While snide democrats everywhere unveil birthday celebrations that praise Romneycare (generically known as Chapter 58 in Massachusetts) Romney himself is placed in the difficult position of saying his plan worked and worked well. But that it’s not for everyone—or every state as the case may be.
The gist of what delights liberals and frustrates conservatives is the fact that Romneycare requires residents to sign up for health insurance—privately, through work or through Medicare or Medicaid--or face a penalty. A position he strongly championed in a 2006 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he defended the act saying: “Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.”
Romney’s move to the “different strokes for different folks” argument is already giving critics plenty of fodder to blast him for flippity-flopping and double-talk waffling.
Take for example this shiv from Richard Quinn, a long-time GOP political consultant who not only turned down Romney’s request for campaign help but seems to have signed up to work for his would-be opponent Jon Huntsman.
"Governor Romney keeps saying his health care program has some good parts that can be a model for other states. Which parts of government-run health care does he like? The unconstitutional mandates? Bringing an end to competition in health care? Higher taxes? Massive new government spending?”
What Romney should be doing is not neglecting his mandate love-child but sticking up for the program. The talking point Romney should be owning is that what works in Romneycare—near-universal coverage--is working. And he should talk down more what isn’t working—cost—as an issue he lost out on when he was Governor and that current leadership in Massachusetts can’t get a grip on it.
For example the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts (BCBSF) recently issued a study where they found that Massachusetts now has the highest rate of insurance in the country at 98.1 percent. They’ve also in five years noted that government subsidies haven’t hurt the private sector in fact “employer offer rates have grown from 70 percent to 76 percent since implementation of reform.” 69 percent of the Massachusetts public still enjoys the reform as of 2009 and as many as 88 percent of physicians believe the reform “improved, or did not affect care, or the quality of care.”
But then there’s the bad news: “With no intervention, per capita health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double by 2020.”
That’s a pretty bad diagnosis—terminal in fact…for a republican presidential hopeful. Unless of course he can get the point across that cost was an issue the Governor lost out on.
Another report from BCBSF, the foundation mentioned above, mentions this political reality in another report discussing what national healthcare reform can learn from Massachusetts. “Although per capita spending for health care in Massachusetts has consistently been the highest in the nation, lawmakers decided to focus the 2006 health reform law on expanding access to insurance coverage, not on controlling costs.”
Interestingly enough the report goes on to mention how the Massachusetts Attorney General investigated cost trends and reported in 2010 that prices paid varied widely between hospitals and were not “tied to quality,” among other critical factors. The Massachusetts Attorney General recommended—unsuccessfully—that the Legislature increase regulatory oversight of “health insurer premiums and provider rates.”
While such a thing could easily be construed by a bull-shitter with a bullhorn as “socialism” keep in mind, this oversight is needed to tie cost to quality of care. “When coupled with other market-oriented adjustments, insurance premium and provider rate oversight can immediately help to address cost growth and current market inequities, such as price variation,” reads the Massachusetts Attorney General’s report. “Government oversight and market-based strategies are not mutually exclusive.”
There is a case to be made for Romneycare. Even if it is a complicated, misunderstood 5-year-old program that just wants to be loved, especially by daddy Mitt.