NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 29, 2008

Former Gov. Mitt Romney recently proclaimed, "Health care reform is working in Massachusetts."  Shortly after Romney's self tribute, Gov. Deval Patrick wheeled out a new $129 million tax plan to make up for this year's health spending shortfalls.  Yet partisans are cheering the cost overruns as a sign of success, says the Wall Street Journal.

Supporters are exultant because 350,000 people are newly covered since former Gov. Romney's parley with Beacon Hill Democrats in 2006; this cuts the state's uninsured rate by about half.  That's not the promised "universal" system, but never mind, says the Journal.  The ominous news is that only about 18,000 people -- or 5 percent of the newly insured -- have taken advantage of the "connector," which was supposed to be the plan's free-market innovation linking individuals to private insurers.

Most of this growth in coverage has instead come via a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care, says the Journal:

  • This provides subsidized insurance to those under 300 percent of the poverty level, or about $63,000 for a family of four.
  • About 174,000 have joined this low- or no-cost program, a trend that is likely to speed up.

As this public option gets overwhelmed, budget gaskets are blowing everywhere.   Patrick had already bumped up this year's spending to $869 million, $144 million over its original estimate.  Liberals duly noted that these tax hikes are necessary because enrollment in Commonwealth Care is much higher than anticipated.  But of course more people will have coverage if government gives it to them for free.  The problem is that someone has to pay for it, explains the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "The Price of RomneyCare," Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2008.

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