Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Can Mitt Romney Escape His Romneycare Albatross?
CATO / Forbes ^ | 2011-08-29 | Doug Bandow

Posted on 09/01/2011 5:24:41 PM PDT by rabscuttle385

Health care remains one of President Barack Obama's greatest political weaknesses. The issue remains an equally serious problem for Republican Mitt Romney.

President Obama's program to centralize medical decision-making in Washington remains as unpopular as ever. Insurers are raising premiums and canceling policies. The president's promise that Americans can keep their existing coverage has turned out to be void. Health care providers and insurers are cutting back operations and dropping jobs to comply with the new law. Washington has been forced to issue temporary waivers — over 1400, as of mid-June — to moderate the legislation's impact.

Moreover, ObamaCare has bent the cost curve upward by reinforcing the underlying third party payment problem. The administration even double counted its imagined cost savings, causing Medicare's chief actuary to warn that the program's latest estimates were essentially fraudulent. Future Congresses will have to reduce promised benefits or public subsidies, or hike spending.

No GOP presidential contender officially supported the administration legislation. However, Mitt Romney instituted an early variant of the Obama program.

As part of his liberal phase when governor of Massachusetts — political principles have been ever-flexible for Romney — he orchestrated passage of legislation with eerie similarities to ObamaCare. Massachusetts mandates purchase of insurance, decides what benefits must be offered, and maintains a complex system of subsidies and penalties. Declared Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker, the two programs are "not identical, but they're certainly close kin." MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised both Gov. Romney and President Obama on health care, asserted: "Basically, it's the same thing."

Out of either policy pride or political calculation, Romney continues to defend his approach as "a model that works." But he probably could not escape the legacy even if he wanted to. Walker wrote: "Health care was Romney's greatest achievement by so wide a margin that it's hard to know what to compare it to."

However, Romney has grown increasingly desperate to distinguish his legislation from that of Obama. The best the former can say is that his program was constitutional, since states possess the so-called "police power," allowing them to regulate most anything within their jurisdiction. In contrast, the federal government was created with only limited, enumerated powers. The Founders would never have imagined that Washington could force people to purchase health insurance under the guise of regulating "commerce among the states." (So far the federal courts have split on the issue.)

Alas, even the former governor's constitutional scruples are suspect. In 1994 he backed a federal mandate. His concern about the overweening federal government apparently was not so finely developed then.

In any case, the fact that RomneyCare is constitutional does not mean that it is wise. Americans want their president to exercise good judgment and common sense, as well as respect the office's constitutional limits. RomneyCare fails the first two standards.

Yet so far Romney has gotten off easy in the Republican contest. In the first debate former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty failed to criticize Romney on the issue of "ObamneyCare," as Pawlenty termed it, when given the opportunity. Pawlenty's belated attempt to toughen his message highlighted his political weaknesses, and he soon departed the race. (In fact, Pawlenty as well as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both supported a mandate, though their respective state legislatures eventually passed more limited legislation.)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's entry may end Romney's easy ride. Perry already has gone after Romney, observing: "I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare plan that he passed is a huge problem for him, and yeah, it was not almost perfect." This is likely only the first of many hits.

"ObamneyCare" was not a revolutionary attempt to overturn the status quo. Rather, the usual special interests did quite well. The American Prospect's Robert Kuttner observed: "In Massachusetts, Romney needed and got buy-in from the powerful hospital, insurance, and corporate lobbies. To win that support, he could not fundamentally change the way they did business. Instead, private insurance companies got more customers thanks to the individual mandate, hospitals kept their beds full, and corporations that failed to insure employees paid only a token penalty of $295 per worker."

Romney's legislation sought to extend insurance coverage. About 95% to 96% — the state claims 98.1%, but the actual rate appears to be lower — of Massachusetts residents now are insured. That is a genuine achievement but still not universal coverage. Moreover, as Peter Suderman of Reason observed, "the state's insurance coverage rates were already unusually high to begin with: About 90% of the state's population had health coverage prior to the law's passage." In short, Gov. Romney's accomplishment actually was rather modest.

Moreover, at what cost? Defenders of RomneyCare argue that its goal was to expand coverage, not to cut expenditures, but Gov. Romney was not alone in promising "affordable" health care. Anyway, the legislation certainly was not supposed to drive costs skyward.

However, paying for more benefits for more people inevitably makes medicine more expensive. Costs for Commonwealth Care, the Massachusetts government's subsidized insurance program alone are up a fifth over initial projections. Last year State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill wrote: "The universal insurance coverage we adopted in 2006 was projected to cost taxpayers $88 million a year. However, since this program was adopted in 2006, our health-care costs have in total exceeded $4 billion. The cost of Massachusetts' plan has blown a hole in the Commonwealth's budget."

State finances have not collapsed only because RomneyCare spread the costs widely, forcing virtually everyone in and out of the state to share the pain. Cahill cited federal subsidies as keeping the state afloat financially. Indeed, a June study from the Beacon Hill Institute concluded that "The state has been able to shift the majority of the costs to the federal government." The Institute pointed to higher costs of $8.6 billion since the law was implemented. Just $414 million was paid by Massachusetts. Medicaid (federal payments) covered $2.4 billion. Medicare took care of $1.4 billion.

But even more costs, $4.3 billion, have been imposed on the private sector — employers, insurers, and residents. This estimate is in line with an earlier study by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, which figured that 60% of the new costs fell on individuals and businesses.

As expenses have risen, so have premiums. Noted Kuttner, "because serious cost containment was not part of the original package, premium costs in the commonwealth have risen far faster than nationally — by 10.3%, the most recent year available." Economists John F. Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler figured that RomneyCare inflated premiums by 6% from 2006 to 2008. This at a time where the state-subsidized Commonwealth Care was displacing private insurance for many people, thereby reducing demand, which should have reduced cost pressures.

Unfortunately, noted the Beacon Hill Institute, "private companies have no choice but to pass the higher costs onto the insured. Some of these costs fall in the double-digit range." That naturally displeased public officials, since it undercut their claim to have solved Massachusetts' health care problems.

Gov. Deval Patrick responded like King Canute: he insisted that premiums not rise. Predictably, his rejection of proposed rate hikes required insurers to operate at a loss and placed several in financial jeopardy.

Robert Dynan, the career insurance commissioner tasked with maintaining insurer solvency, wrote that the state "implemented artificial price caps on HMO rates. The rates, by design, have no actuarial support." Last year Sandy Praeger, Kansas' insurance Commissioner, observed: "Right now, premium increase have never been more political. If there is any way to justify not granting the increase, commissioners are looking for them."

Thankfully, Gov. Patrick's price controls did not fare well when challenged in court and his administration eventually negotiated reduced rate hikes. But the governor then came up with a new legislative program to arbitrarily reduce medical costs.

Even weaker restrictions would be counterproductive. The Beacon Hill Institute warned that "Controlling costs will translate into capping services provided by physicians and other caregivers. These are, in effect, price controls that will dampen the incentive to provide services and lead to longer wait times and the rationing of healthcare."

Even worse, bankrupt insurance carriers would mean either no health care coverage or expensive government bail-outs. Yet John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute detailed shrinking margins and pervasive losses for Massachusetts health insurers. He warned "that if politicians refuse to allow health plans to increase their premiums at a rate commensurate with the increase in medical costs, health plans will plunge into financial crisis within a remarkably short period of time." Indeed, carriers "will stand at the precipice of insolvency if the political class in Massachusetts insists on continuing to follow the path that it has chosen."

Unfortunately, worse is likely to come. The Rand Corporation concluded that "in the absence of policy change, health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double to $123 billion in 2020, increasing 8% faster than the state's" GDP. Added Rand, continued cost increases of this magnitude "threaten the long-term viability of the initiative." Nor can the state count on an increasingly strapped federal government to continue its generous subsidies. Moreover, at some point people and businesses will flee the state rather than pay ever more to underwrite the state's health care program.

Finally, RomneyCare inflated demand for medical services without increasing the corresponding supply. The Beacon Hill Institute concluded: "The vast number of the newly insured residents in Massachusetts is responsible for bottlenecks in the primary care system that forces residents to utilize emergency room care at a significantly higher than expected rate."

A fifth of adults report difficulty in finding a physician to treat them. Earlier this year the Massachusetts Medical Society discovered "more than half of primary care practices closed to new patients, longer wait times to get appointments with primary and specialty physicians, and significant variations in physician acceptance of government and government-related insurance products."

New York internist Marc Siegel observed: "The wait time for an appointment is now routinely over a month for primary-care doctors and specialists … . Internists and family practitioners report being so overwhelmed — too many patients, too much time pressure — that more than half are closing their practices to new patients." You'd think Massachusetts was a province of Canada.

The state's subsidized programs effectively drive away doctors. Explained Siegel: "More than half of primary-care docs in Massachusetts find themselves unable to work with Medicaid or Commonwealth Care (state-subsidized insurance), which both pay providers poorly." Acceptance rates are far lower than even for Medicare, and one Massachusetts legislator has proposed making medical licensure contingent upon acceptance of state-subsidized plans.

Although the expansion of insurance was supposed to reduce emergency room use, visits rose 9% from 2004 to 2008. Ironically, noted Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, "difficulties in getting primary care have led to an increasing number of patients who rely on emergency rooms for basic medical services." Thus, uncompensated care still costs more than $400 million annually.

The state also encouraged adverse selection, as predicted. Many healthy people chose to remain uninsured and pay the fine (or lie about having purchased coverage). They then bought insurance when sick, and dropped the policy when it was no longer necessary. Massachusetts was forced to institute an open enrollment period, limiting when people could sign up for insurance — an otherwise bizarre restriction when the objective is to increase the number of people insured.

ObamneyCare is bad policy. Gov. Romney's signature policy achievement, no less than President Obama's principal legislative victory, is a bust.

At least Mitt Romney did not compound bad policy with unconstitutionality, but his health care failure inevitably taints his presidential bid. He rightly faces an uphill task in convincing Republican primary voters that he is the best choice to be their nominee.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Extended News; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2012gopprimary; bho44; bigdigromney; biggovernment; fakebadgeromney; fascism; healthcare; liberalfascism; obamacare; rinoromney; rinos4obama; romney; romney2lose; romney4gaymarriage; romney4guncontrol; romney4obama; romneyantigop; romneybadgov; romneycare; romneytruthfile; tyranny

1 posted on 09/01/2011 5:24:46 PM PDT by rabscuttle385
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL,NO.


2 posted on 09/01/2011 5:27:14 PM PDT by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life is tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

no.


3 posted on 09/01/2011 5:28:11 PM PDT by ken21 (ruling class dem + rino progressives -- destroying america for 150 years.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
Romney can't escape his shameful record on RKBA either, that is unforgivable.
4 posted on 09/01/2011 5:28:48 PM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

NO


5 posted on 09/01/2011 5:29:05 PM PDT by MestaMachine (Bovina Sancta!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

Absolutely, poitively no.


6 posted on 09/01/2011 5:29:43 PM PDT by Iron Munro (Muslims who advocate, support, or carry out Jihad give the other 1% a bad name)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SWAMPSNIPER

You got that right!


7 posted on 09/01/2011 5:29:50 PM PDT by MestaMachine (Bovina Sancta!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: HANG THE EXPENSE

Beat me to it.


8 posted on 09/01/2011 5:29:57 PM PDT by Ronin (Obamanation has replaced Bizarroworld as the most twisted place in the universe.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

No


9 posted on 09/01/2011 5:30:05 PM PDT by swamprebel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
NO
10 posted on 09/01/2011 5:31:00 PM PDT by Lazlo in PA (Now living in a newly minted Red State.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385


RomneyCare, Get your RomneyCare
11 posted on 09/01/2011 5:32:30 PM PDT by GonzoGOP (There are millions of paranoid people in the world and they are all out to get me.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

Romney is dead to me. Fergetaboutit.


12 posted on 09/01/2011 5:35:30 PM PDT by steveyp
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
No.

I thought his only chance was to do a mea culpa on Romneycare and say knowing what he knows now it was a mistake.

But he didn't and that was a deal-breaker for me.

13 posted on 09/01/2011 5:36:14 PM PDT by colorado tanker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

no. Romney trying to be TEA party now is hilarious


14 posted on 09/01/2011 5:36:15 PM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Happiness)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

Romney? They have a pill for that i think. doctor gave me one and it cleared the problem right up.

I didn’t read all nine pages of the story but I can give a 1 word answer to the title.

NOPE!


15 posted on 09/01/2011 5:37:59 PM PDT by cableguymn
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

The Romnster is the McCain of 2012.


16 posted on 09/01/2011 5:39:13 PM PDT by AU72
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
However, Romney has grown increasingly desperate to distinguish his legislation from that of Obama.

It could be pointed out that Mitt wears special underwear, and Obama (as far a we know) doesn't.

17 posted on 09/01/2011 5:42:49 PM PDT by Mr Ramsbotham (Laws against sodomy are honored in the breech.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Mr Ramsbotham

Myth has nicer hair to, and better ears. I’m still not voting for him unless he is the last man standing.

Even then I’ll only vote for him because I am there to vote for real conservatives down the ticket.


18 posted on 09/01/2011 5:45:29 PM PDT by cableguymn
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Iron Munro

NO and this is series and hugh.


19 posted on 09/01/2011 5:46:01 PM PDT by boomop1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

Forget Romneycare. He told the worst type of outright pandering lie when he said he was a gun owner.


20 posted on 09/01/2011 6:07:18 PM PDT by DBrow
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

Not if I can help it.


21 posted on 09/01/2011 6:08:08 PM PDT by freedomfiter2 (Brutal acts of commission and yawning acts of omission both strengthen the hand of the devil.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

It is interesting to see some MA legislators supporting a scheme whereby physicians would be required to see poorly insured patients in order to be liscenced. This approach would really launch an exodus of physicians. The ones that stayed would give very minimal and bogus care. Other physicians would oversea a legion NPs and PAs passing out pain pills and other symptomatic treatment.


22 posted on 09/01/2011 6:25:04 PM PDT by grumpygresh (Democrats delenda est)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
Escape it? Wouldn't you think he should be proud of it.

If he can't stand up and say with pride, This is My Legacy! Then why would a "staunch conservative" like the Romster have done it at all .

T'is a conundrum.

23 posted on 09/01/2011 9:16:49 PM PDT by Dr.Zoidberg (Warning: Sarcasm/humor is always engaged. Failure to recognize this may lead to misunderstandings.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

NO, simply that. NO Mitt cannot escape. He is just unelectible in my mind though. No values to rely on except the Mormon ones he tries to hide. He is no self made man. His father gave him his start and he veered to the left in Mass. Don’t see him as a contender.


24 posted on 09/02/2011 12:29:09 AM PDT by tinamina
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385
Can Mitt Romney Escape His Romneycare Albatross?

Um, no.

http://www.mass.gov/Ador/docs/dor/health%20care/HC.pdf

For those of you in Rio Linda, the above explains how the individual mandate is enforced. Thanks to Willard.

Massachusetts Form 1099-HC">

25 posted on 09/02/2011 1:03:31 AM PDT by cynwoody
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All

Speaking of Obamacare: whatever happened to all of the promises from the “tea party republicans” that we voted for in the 2010 elections?

Why is there no push to repeal Obamacare?


26 posted on 09/02/2011 7:34:07 AM PDT by Washi
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: rabscuttle385

First off, he’d never repeal the economy gutting job killing obamacare...Mittens believes in it. He thinks it is ok for the government to tell us to buy health insurance. He is big government which makes him against liberty and freedom. The Tea Party is against him. He is toast.


27 posted on 09/19/2011 12:11:12 PM PDT by shield (Rev 2:9 Woe unto those who say they are Judahites and are not, but are of the syna GOG ue of Satan.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AU72
I think Rick Perry might be the McCain of 2012. Romney is more like the Huckabee.

What depresses me is that so many conservatives have already drunk the Perry Kool-Aid and decided the open borders guy is their guy.

The Country Club wing will then tell conservatives we got what they wanted, so now we need a RINO to balance the ticket. A socialized medicine RINO is just what we need to balance an open borders RINO.

28 posted on 09/19/2011 9:15:16 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson