Today is the five-year anniversary of Massachusetts’ passage of comprehensive health care reform — a measure, that not only paved the way for the Affordable Care Act, but also greatly expanded coverage in the Bay state. More than 98 percent of Massachusetts residents now have health care coverage, including 99.8 percent of children — the highest in the nation. The percent of private companies offering health insurance to their employees has increased from 70 to 76 percent and in 2011, the state spent $405 million on uncompensated care, nearly $300 million less than before reform was enacted in 2006.
But Mitt Romney — who announced just yesterday that he is forming an presidential exploratory committee — has tried to downplay his role in enacting what he once defended as the “ultimate conservative plan” and has thus far stayed mum about the anniversary. This tone contrasts sharply with how Romney characterized the law five years ago, when he presented the measure as a bipartisan accomplishment that could, at least in part, serve as a model for the nation. The Massachusetts Democrats compiled this “Thank You Mitt” praising the law in 2006:
— “When I set out to get everybody health insurance, I couldn’t have cared less and I don’t care less about how it works politically.”
— “Well, it would work for Massachusetts, and that’s of course the effort I had to focus on. There are certain aspects of it that would work across the country, perhaps better in some states than others…there is not much question here, it works. ”
— “Ted Kennedy supporting a bill which I authored, that’s actually going to be a cure to global warming because hell has frozen over.”
Despite insisting that states must find their own solutions to the health care crisis, Romney has at times suggested that parts of the Massachusetts reforms could be applied nationwide. As recently as Oct. 2009, Romney told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, “Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured in a way that doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t put the government in the driver’s seat and allows people to own their own insurance policies and not to have to worry about losing coverage. That’s what Massachusetts did,” he said.
Democrats and President Obama took this advise to heart and built the Affordable Care Act around the principles established in Massachusetts. In fact, Romney’s plan contains some policies that are more liberal (in its standard benefit design and employer responsibility provisions) than those found in the national health care law:
|Major Provisions||Affordable Care Act||Massachusetts Health Law|
|Employer Responsibility||Yes — but not required to provide coverage||Yes — required to provide coverage|
|Standard Benefit Package||Yes — w/o abortion services||Yes — w/ abortion services|
|Prohibits Insurance Company From Canceling Coverage||Yes||Yes|
|Bans Denying Medical Coverage For Pre-existing Conditions||Yes||Yes|
|Medicare Cuts||Yes||No Authority|
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday in March 2010, Romney highlighted his support for the plan’s individual health insurance mandate. “I think our plan is working well. And perhaps the best thing I can say about it, it’s saving lives. It is the ultimate pro-life effort,” he said. “We said people have to take responsibility for getting insurance if they can afford it or paying their own way. No more free riders.”