Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who must be biting his lip to keep from announcing his bid for the White House, went on the record with Greta Van Sustren yesterday and doubled down on his support for Massachusetts health care reform and the individual mandate:
ROMNEY: [Reform in Massachusetts] is actually working pretty much as anticipated at the time it was passed….In my view, we could make the plan much more effective by doing something I proposed in the original legislation, which was to say that everybody had to pay something for their insurance, that there were no free rides, that people had to at least put some portion of the cost down for their premiums….
Actually, in our plan in Massachusetts, everybody is insured, so there’s no issue about preexisting conditions or changing jobs because you’re always able to have insurance. And the insurance companies don’t have a problem with that because we have everybody in the pool. They don’t have to worry about adverse selection where only the sick or only those with preexisting conditions go out and buy insurance. So because the entire state is insured, the system can work.
While Governor, Romney had advocated a “personal responsibility” policy that would have required individuals who failed to purchase coverage to spend up to $10,000 in the form of a bond that could be used to pay for hospital care. As my colleague Emma Sandoe explains, Romney’s plan ensured that the penalty funds were directed back into health care and provided a pretty powerful incentive to purchase coverage (rather than pay $10,000), but Democrats argued that charging everyone the same flat fee would disadvantage poorer families. To a family making $1 million a year, a $10,000 fee is only 1% of their income, while to a family making $30,000 a year, this fine is a third of their income. “The final version of the Massachusetts plan included a fee based on half of the cost of the lowest price plan either in their private insurance exchange system (Commonwealth Choice) or in their government subsidized program (Commonwealth Care) for lower income individuals.”
Romney may have some minor qualms with Massachusetts reform, but he supports its key pillars (although he disagreed with the employer requirement), which are also, as it turns out, part of the Senate health care proposal. It’s basically the Massachusetts plan with cost controls:
|Major Provisions||Senate Bill||Massachusetts Bill|
|Standard Benefit Package||Yes||Yes|
|Prohibits Insurance Company From Canceling Coverage||Yes||Yes|
|Bans Denying Medical Coverage For Pre-existing Conditions||Yes||Yes|
|Medicare Cuts||Yes||No Authority|
|Cap On High-Cost Plans||Yes||No|
In recent media interviews promoting his new book, No Apology, Romney has tried to argue that the health care bill he signed differs from the Senate legislation because Massachusetts did not reduce Medicare spending. It’s a blatantly ridiculous argument, since states don’t have the ability to cut into the federally-funded Medicare program.
As Romney prepares for his second presidential campaign, he should take a page from his book and offer ‘no apology’ for supporting the kind of health care reform that Democrats are promoting. But if the previous campaign is any indication, to Romney, it’s probably still just a book title.