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Does Mitt Romney Deserve the Abuse He’s Getting on Health Care? Yes, He Does.

Mitt Romney took a big beating on the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page last week, the same day he laid out his health care plan in the USA Today and defended his position on the topic in a speech in Michigan. I’m not a big Romney fan but had been feeling sympathetic enough toward him on this issue to defend him. After reading what he has to say, though, I’m not prepared to offer a defense. On the other hand, Massachusetts health reform remains defensible, if incomplete.

Here’s what Mitt Romney should have said:

  • Health reform in Massachusetts has achieved its main goal: more than 98% of residents now have health insurance including 99.8% of children
  • The Massachusetts reform was achieved by bringing together all major stakeholders in the state from both parties, and focusing on addressing a serious problem rather than scoring political points against one another at the expense of the public good
  • Gaining consensus enabled health reform not just to get passed, but actually implemented more or less as envisioned, in contrast to earlier failed attempts at universal coverage
  • Massachusetts’ long history of substantial public sector investments made this kind of reform feasible. Good schools translate into an educated workforce that attracts high-wage employers who can afford to offer health insurance. That made it possible for the state to offer a safety net that was more generous than other states’ (e.g., in its eligibility criteria for Medicaid) even before the enactment of so-called Romney Care
  • Massachusetts, like other states, still has a cost problem. It’s no surprise that Massachusetts health reform didn’t bring costs down. First, that wasn’t its goal. Second, cost problems can’t be addressed in a serious manner without changes in the health care delivery system and reform of Medicare. Tackling the delivery system is very difficult, and states have no power to reform Medicare. That’s why health reform can’t be left purely to the states; it has to be tackled at the national level
  • Even a cold-blooded capitalist like me realizes that pure free-market approaches aren’t effective or fair in health careContinue reading…