A “government takeover of health care” is back. At least it is in the mind of New Jersey governor Chris Christie. In an interview with talk radio show host Dom Giordano, the governor, who supports Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, dished out strong clues about how Republicans are going to fight the health reform law. The weapon of choice: Frank Luntz’s focus-group tested messages. On the show Christie showed he was in sync with Romney’s defense of the Massachusetts reform law, which Romney’s administration supported and which later became the model for national reform. But to distance himself from the federal law, Romney has said what was good for Massachusetts at the time may not be good for the rest of the country. And Christie has said that what happened in the Bay State “would not be good for New Jersey.”
On the show, Christie urged the president to tell the truth about the reform law. What truth would Christie tell?
I’d say to the president, in Massachusetts, we didn’t propose to raise taxes, as you proposed to raise taxes a trillion dollars to pay for a government takeover of health care…. Ninety-three percent of the people in Massachusetts had private insurance then and have private insurance now. That’s not what’s gonna happen under Obamacare. It’s gonna be a government takeover of health care.
Really, Governor? As Campaign Desk has repeatedly noted, the health reform law does not call for a government takeover of health care. The law simply brings private insurance to people who are uninsured. You know, the kind sold by those giants of the American insurance business—UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross, Cigna, and Humana—which just posted a large profit gained mostly from selling private Medicare Advantage plans to seniors.
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has pledged to end “Obamacare.” Upon taking office, he would immediately begin the process by granting the states waivers from having to implement it:
“I’ll grant a waiver on Day One to get repeal started. On Day One, granting a waiver for all 50 states doesn’t stop it in its tracks entirely. That’s why I also say we have to repeal Obamacare, and I will do that on Day Two, with a reconciliation bill [requiring only 51 votes in the Senate] because as you know, it was passed by reconciliation with 51 votes.”
Romney appears to be on thin ground in making his waiver promise and his promise to use reconciliation to stop “Obamacare” could lead to chaos in the market and among consumers.
The waiver promised is based on a provision in the law authored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). Wyden’s provision was designed to allow states to petition the feds to opt out of the new health care law by taking the federal money that was going to be spent in their state under the Affordable Care Act and draft a comprehensive plan of their own that covered at least as many people as well as the Affordable Care Act would have.Continue reading…
Last week the Census Bureau released new numbers showing that 5.6 percent of the population in Massachusetts remained without health insurance coverage. That’s a 42 percent drop in the number of the state’s uninsured since the law took effect in 2006. A new study by the Cambridge Health Alliance, one of the state’s safety net providers, showed who was left out, putting a human face on those without insurance. The findings are illuminating given that the Bay State’s health law is the model for the national law, which takes full effect in 2014, and the Romney-Perry feud often flares up around the topic of health reform in the state.
The local press, primarily the Boston Globe and WBUR, covered the story; the national media whiffed on its implications for federal reform. If reform in Massachusetts cut the number of uninsured roughly in half, the same is likely to happen nationally, according to government data. The latest Census Bureau numbers show that nearly fifty million people have no health coverage; the Congressional Budget Office estimates about twenty-three million will be still be uninsured later in the decade. It was as if the national media has forgotten that Massachusetts is a harbinger of what will happen nationally. Or perhaps it’s easier for the national media to cover the he said/he said back and forth between Perry and Romney.
Tim Pawlenty used a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday to show a tougher demeanor and to prove he will not make health care cost containment and access a priority. As Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney worked with the Democratic legislature and the health care industry to expand access to all residents of the state and to commit to cost containing behavior change. The coverage reforms came right out of conservative health policy playbooks at Wharton (in the 1980s) and the Heritage Foundation (in the 1990s) and the cost containment was to be accomplished by voluntary action of Massachusetts health systems and health plans. On which they have since foundered, leaving Romney to take the heat.
When President Obama made his commitment to reform of national coverage, access, insurance, payment, and delivery system policy, national Republicans refused to cooperate. The legislative policy approach he advocated came mostly from a bipartisan Senate Finance Committee report from 2008. Elements of it came from the bipartisan approach Romney took in Massachusetts. Congressional Republicans unanimously refused to participate in the process. Today every elected Republican has committed to repealing Obamacare (and now Obama-ney care).
What changed? The definition of Republican. The election power of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint and the Rupert Murdoch/WSJ/Fox version of facts to bring out the “just vote No on government and on Obama” in a substantial enough minority of Americans turned the trick. While Pawlenty and Bachmann represent a state which has been committed to universal coverage and healthcare cost containment for decades, neither has done much to make it a reality in our state. Assuming “repeal and replace” implies state action is preferable to national, they’ve nothing to show for their efforts so far.
Senator David Durenberger, Minnesota, served in the US Senate from 1978 – 1995.
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…
Mitt Romney has outlined his new health plan. He outlined five key steps in an op-ed in USAToday. Here is a summary:
Step 1: Give states the responsibility, flexibility and resources to care for citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill.
Step 2: Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance.
Step 3: Focus federal regulation of health care on making markets work…For example, individuals who are continuously covered for a specified period of time may not be denied access to insurance because of pre-existing conditions. And individuals should be allowed to purchase insurance across state lines, free from costly state benefit requirements. Finally, individuals and small businesses should be allowed to form purchasing pools to lower insurance costs and improve choice.
Step 4: Reform medical liability. We should cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice litigation.
Step 5: Make health care more like a consumer market and less like a government program. This can be done by strengthening health savings accounts that help consumers save for health expenses and choose cost-effective insurance.
It looks to me like his health care outline is more intended to make conservative Republicans happy then to really propose ways to reform America’s health care system.
There isn’t one new idea here and it all comes straight from the 2010 Republican campaign playbook.Continue reading…
One of my regrets in life is losing the chance to debate Mitt Romney and whip his ass.
It was the fall of 2002. Mitt had thundered into Massachusetts with enough money to grab the Republican nomination for governor. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to secure the Democratic nomination. One week before the Democratic primary I was tied in the polls with the state treasurer, according to the Boston Herald, well ahead of four other candidates. But my campaign ran out of cash. Despite pleas from my campaign manager, I didn’t want to put a second mortgage on the family home. The rest is history: The state treasurer got the nomination, I never got to debate Mitt, and Mitt won the election.
With Trump, Gingrich, Bachmann, and possibly Palin now in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, “GOP” is starting to mean Goofy, Outrageous, and Peculiar. Mitt would pose the most serious challenge to a second Obama term.
I say this not because Mitt’s mind is the sharpest of the likely contenders (Gingrich is far more nimble intellectually). Nor because his record of public service is particularly impressive (Tim Pawlenty took his governorship seriously while Mitt as governor seemed more intent on burnishing his Republican credentials outside Massachusetts). Nor because Mitt is the most experienced at running a business (Donald Trump has managed a giant company while Mitt made his money buying and selling companies.) Nor, finally, because he’s especially charismatic or entertaining (Sarah Palin can work up audiences and Mike Huckabee is genuinely funny and folksy, while Mitt delivers a speech so laboriously he seems to be driving a large truck).Continue reading…
There’s a chance that we’re starting to see a convergence of opinion on Medicare among Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. I know the recent bickering makes this seem like an odd contention, but consider the following:
In recent decades Republicans have done a great job of tarring Democrats with the “tax and spend” label while being fiscally irresponsible themselves. Republicans criticized Carter era deficits, and then proceeded to run up much more startling deficits under President Reagan. Bill Clinton had us looking at surpluses(!) as far as the eye could see until W came in and sent the red ink soaring –partly through tax cuts but largely by boosting spending. When Republicans continued brandishing the “tax and spend” cudgel, Democrats figured they were suckers to go the Clinton route of fiscal responsibility and get no credit for it
We’re now at the point where the size of the national debt actually matters. The only way to bring it under control is to bring deficits down. This is something on which Republicans and Democrats can agree. So now you’ve got both parties committed to the idea of deficit reduction; that just hasn’t been the case before.
There are still big differences on how to do it, but approaches –at least on Medicare– are likely to converge once the challenge is faced in a serious way, i.e., with an eye toward solving the problem rather than pandering to one group or another. In the case of Medicare, Republicans are likely to move toward the Democrats’ position over time.Continue reading…