THE FAILURE OF ROMNEYCARE

March 18, 2010

Former Massachusetts governor and likely 2012 presidential aspirant Mitt Romney claimed earlier this month on "Fox News Sunday" that the Massachusetts health reform plan he signed into law in 2006 is "the ultimate conservative plan."  But there are many similarities between it and the ObamaCare loathed by conservative voters, says Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute. 

For example: 

  • Both have an individual mandate requiring most residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty, and most businesses are required to participate or pay a fine.
  • Both rely on government-designed purchasing exchanges that also provide a platform to control private health insurance.
  • Many of the uninsured are covered through Medicaid expansion and others receive subsidies for highly-prescriptive policies.
  • And the apparatus requires a plethora of new government boards and agencies. 

While it's true that the liberal Massachusetts legislature did turn Romney's plan to the left, his claims that his plan is "entirely different" will not stand up to the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign, especially a primary challenge.   Romney needs to be more honest about his Massachusetts experiment and its failings, says Turner: 

  • While Massachusetts' uninsured rate has dropped to around 3 percent, some 68 percent of the newly insured since 2006 receive coverage that is heavily or completely subsidized by taxpayers.
  • While Romney insisted that everyone should pay something for coverage, that is not the way his plan has turned out; more than half of the 408,000 newly insured residents pay nothing, according to a February 2010 report by the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state's insurance exchange.
  • Another 140,000 remained uninsured in 2008 and were either assessed a penalty or exempted from the individual mandate because the state deemed they couldn't afford the premiums. 

Romney's promise that getting everyone covered would force costs down is also far from being realized, says Turner: 

  • One third of state residents polled by Harvard researchers in a study published in "Health Affairs" in 2008 said that their health costs had gone up as a result of the 2006 reforms.
  • A typical family of four today faces total annual health costs of nearly $13,788, the highest in the country.
  • Per capita spending is 27 percent higher than the national average.

Source: Grace-Marie Turner, "The Failure of RomneyCare," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2010.  

 

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