May, 12th 2011

The mess that is RomneyCare

– Liz Mair

As I begin this post, Mitt Romney is giving his speech on health care designed to enable him to say "I dealt with this in my speech in Michigan, now let's change the subject to something more comfortable" during forthcoming Republican presidential debates.  

Preceding the speech has been an all-out effort by Democrats who copied his plan (RomneyCare) federally and put Obama's stamp on it to defend it and make it look awesome.  Here's an example-- former Hillary Clinton advisor and Center for American Progress policy person Neera Tanden on MSNBC today:

Ah, it sucks to be Mitt Romney.  

But I pity poor Neera Tanden having to go make claims about how RomneyCare was a success, and how people in Massachusetts really, really, really think it's super-awesome, especially since she seems to unqualifiedly believe them.

Yesterday's brutal hanging, drawing and quartering by the Wall Street Journal of Romney on the health care issue lays out many of the ways in which RomneyCare is actually a pretty big fail (two sample items: It costs a bomb, and has resulted in more (not less) use of emergency rooms for non-emergency health problems).  

And then there are pieces like this.  48 days is a lot longer than you wait to see your GP under the UK's NHS.

Those are but two recent pieces pointing out massive flaws in the program.

Pretty much the only area where RomneyCare has proven to be a success is in simple reduction of the percentage uninsured point (to the extent one sees this as a pure positive, which some readers of this blog won't).  But as the WSJ notes "the uninsured rate has dropped to 2% today from 6% in 2006."  6 percent was a relatively small percentage to begin with-- as is 10 percent, which is where CATO says the number "hovered" from 2003-2006-- and it begs the question, was there a better way of bringing that number down that might not have involved implementing a scheme supported by Tanden's old boss, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Families USA?   One tends to think so.

As for claims that people in Massachusetts "very strongly" support RomneyCare, I think it's worth noting this recent Suffolk University poll that showed that 49 percent of Massachusetts voters feel RomneyCare isn't helping, while only 38 percent think it is.  (Racefor2012 also posted back in 2009 on a Rasmussen poll, which showed a bigger percentage of voters calling it a "failure" than a "success," though I'll add my usual caveat that Rasmussen isn't the most reliable polling outfit, in my opinion). Historically, polling has shown support-- "very strong" might be a stretch for 58 percent support, as a 2010 poll showed-- but numbers like this may indicate there's more to the picture and/or that the picture is changing.

Bottom line: Tanden may like it, but irrespective, RomneyCare was and remains a deeply flawed program, not because of the execution so much as the design.  Many of its problems were actually rather predictable.  

As Soren Dayton notes, there are a lot of questions reporters should be asking about it, no matter what Democrats and liberals urging support for Obamacare may say.  Another to add to his list is why Romney did essentially nothing to try to curb coverage mandates that have contributed to problems. [intro]



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