During an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd this morning, Mitt Romney argued that asking individuals to take personal responsibility for their own health care spending is “more conservative” than having the government pick up the cost of care for the uninsured. “Personal responsibility, is more conservative, in my view than something being given out for free by government,” he reiterated. The former Massachusetts governor — who signed a state law that includes an individual health mandate — also admitted that while he would prefer the states design and administer their own health care reform plans, the approach would not provide coverage to all uninsured Americans:
TODD: Are you concerned that [a state based approach] could create…a sanctuary states? When some states are just going to cover more people than other states? Massachusetts versus a Mississippi, say?
ROMNEY: Well, that’s something that would be worth looking at, of course, for any state to consider. And people have to look at Massachusetts and see what the record has been of their experience. But my understanding is that under federal law, people are able to get covered in virtually every state in America, people who get seriously ill can go to the hospital and get treated, even if they can’t pay for it. In my opinion, that’s a big government solution.
TODD: How do we stop that…
ROMNEY: … There are a lot of different models, one is to have clinics for people to be treated at low cost, or at no cost, the other is to do as I suggest, which is to have tax breaks given to people who have insurance. There are a number of ways to encourage personal responsibility.
As Romney well knows, the majority of Americans who receive their health insurance through an employer are not taxed on the value of that coverage. His plan — which is really a mandate penalty in reverse in that it is designed to encourage people to buy insurance and penalize those who don’t — would provide tax breaks to individuals and families who purchase coverage on the individual health insurance market. This kind of approach is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which are that it will insure relatively few people and do little to offset the costs of ever increasing health care premiums.