Thursday, July 2, 2009

Romney continues praising the Massachusetts model

Mitt Romney went on The Hugh Hewitt show yesterday, and continued praising the health care reform he championed while governor of Massachusetts (transcript of the interview here).

Most of his praise came from a theoretical angle (e.g. this is how we could get more people insured without having the federal gov't compete), but as has been noted here many times before, it hasn't worked out very well in practice.

And when Hewitt does broach the practical side, there once again seems to be a disconnect between Mitt and the people he provided health care to.

HH: How has the plan in Massachusetts worked? It’s been on the books a couple of years now, people can begin to actually assess how it’s operating.

MR: Yeah, I like it. 440,000 people that weren’t insured now are insured. Individuals who buy insurance have seen the premiums for an individual policy cut in half, and that’s because you’ve got such a large pool of people that are now buying insurance individually. It’s costing, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, about $88 million dollars a year more than the prior year, and that adds up to about, well, less than 2% of the state budget. So it’s costing something, but it doesn’t begin to be the kind of backbreaking problem that Barack Obama’s looking at.

(ea) In other words, it's expensive but not as bad as it could be.

In March, the Wall Street Journal praised Romney's health care plan -- but only as a cautionary tale for one Barack Obama might cook up.

Praise Mitt Romney. Three years ago, the former Massachusetts Governor had the inadvertent good sense to create the "universal" health-care program that the White House and Congress now want to inflict on the entire country. It is proving to be instructive

As the WSJ notes, the experiment was based on fundamentally flawed premise: that you can increase access and lower cost at the same time. It seems so obvious as to be pedantic, but obviously, not obvious enough.

What really whipped along RomneyCare were claims that health care would be less expensive if everyone were covered. But reducing costs while increasing access are irreconcilable issues. Mr. Romney should have known better before signing on to this not-so-grand experiment, especially since the state's "free market" reforms that he boasts about have proven to be irrelevant when not fictional. Only 21,000 people have used the "connector" that was supposed to link individuals to private insurers.

Cato's analysis in April:

Since the program became law, total state health care spending has increased by 23 percent. Insurance premiums have been increasing by 10-12 percent per year, nearly double the national average.... Program costs have skyrocketed. Despite tax increases, the program faces huge deficits in the future. As a result, the state is considering caps on insurance premiums, cuts in reimbursements to providers, and even the possibility of a “global budget” on health care spending.... A shortage of providers, combined with increased demand, is increasing waiting times to see a physician, especially primary care providers.

Cato concludes by going in for the kill, claiming Massachusetts is far from a model for other states, as Romney's repeatedly claimed.

With the “Massachusetts model” being frequently cited as a blueprint for state or national health care reform, it is important to recognize that giving the government greater control over our health care system will have grave consequences for taxpayers, providers, and health care consumers. That is the lesson of the Massachusetts model.

But beyond the abstract idea of dollars and cents (which as California teaches us, clearly doesn't have to be an issue in running your government), how do those affected by Romney's plan feel?

This week, Rasmussen released a poll, showing only 26% of MA residents feel the health care plan has been successful.

Romney's going to have to start addressing why it hasn't worked out as promised then, and presented, now.