Mitt Romney’s Health Care Defenses Still Don’t Cut It

It’s no secret that President Barack Obama based his costly, mandate-driven health care overhaul on Massachusetts’ 2006 reform experiment — despite former Bay State Governor and current Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s claims to the contrary.

Ironclad proof surfaced a few weeks ago, when the White House released visitor logs from 2009 showing a dozen meetings between Massachusetts health officials and the Obama team — including one in the Oval Office.

It’s safe to assume that they weren’t talking about the Red Sox.

Romney is currently the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. If he gets the nod from Republicans, then voters will be left to choose between two candidates who have implemented the exact same brand of health reform. Given the disaster that’s been unfolding in Massachusetts for five years — and the problems already plaguing ObamaCare — that’s not a good thing.

The cornerstone of both the Massachusetts plan and ObamaCare is the individual mandate requiring all people to obtain insurance or pay a fine. The Bay State already had one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation before enacting its law, but since reform, the percentage of folks lacking insurance has decreased further.

The bad news is that health costs in Massachusetts are spiraling out of control.

Health care spending is rising 15% faster than the national average. Between 2007 and 2009, premiums rose between 5% and 10% each year. Economists from Stanford and Columbia have estimated that the state health care law was responsible for hiking premiums by as much as 6%.

Despite clear similarities in the plans, Romney has continued to defend the Massachusetts overhaul, even as he attacks ObamaCare.

Romney’s fellow GOP presidential candidates finally started to call out his role in implementing ObamaCare’s legislative progenitor at an October debate in Las Vegas.

Romney responded with a false distinction. “We don’t have a government insurance plan. We rely on private insurers,” he said.

If that’s a defense of RomneyCare, it’s also a defense of ObamaCare — which is to say that it’s not a defense at all.

Both systems corral insurers into highly regulated exchanges. That’s not the private market at work — it’s government telling the market what to do.

Romney’s other defense of his plan — that it somehow encourages “personal responsibility” — isn’t convincing either.

Romney says the Bay State’s health system was designed in response to the “free rider” problem. Hospitals were required to treat individuals whether or not they had insurance. The state was paying out hundreds of millions of dollars each year for “uncompensated care” for the uninsured. The Obama administration frequently uses the same justification to argue for its plan.

Here’s the problem. Years after RomneyCare’s enactment, Massachusetts is still paying for uncompensated care. In fact, the bill is rising. Between 2008 and 2009, Massachusetts’s uncompensated care tab increased 5%. The following year, it shot up 15%.

And yet Romney continues to stand by his state’s plan. Does this matter? After all, he also says that if he becomes president, he’ll fight to take down ObamaCare.

But Romney can’t be trusted to fulfill this promise. In September, he released a lengthy economic plan including a list of five bills he’d introduce on his first day in the White House. Conspicuously absent was one to repeal ObamaCare.

Romney then said he’d issue an executive order allowing all 50 states to get waivers from ObamaCare. Of course, residents of states whose leaders did not want to seek waivers would still be stuck with the federal law.

Waivers might not work even for those states that wanted them. The waivers built into ObamaCare were only designed to allow states to change the way they accomplished ObamaCare’s goals — not to get out from its requirements entirely. At best, the waivers would permit some states to escape from a few parts of the law — but not the whole thing.

Romney also floated the idea of repealing ObamaCare through the budget reconciliation process. But there’s reason to be skeptical. He once called RomneyCare a “model for the nation.” And in his book “No Apology,” he argued that the much of the Massachusetts plan applied to other states.

Romney is still contorting his rhetoric to run against ObamaCare while defending his own plan. The problem is, they’re virtually the same.

Still, there may be one reason to thank Romney for his health reform record: RomneyCare shows that ObamaCare won’t work.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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