One constant refrain that rates repeated media mentions in the run for the presidency in 2012 is how similar the Obama and Romney health care plans are and how successful ‘Romneycare’ is in Massachusetts. Correct on both counts. There are numerous sections of each plan that almost parallel each other including a mandated individual and employer penalty for failure to buy or provide health insurance.
While Romney has to politically renounce the highly effective Massachusetts plan because it’s a first cousin to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, he still gets a lion’s share of the credit for a health care achievement that has been recognized as perhaps the most successful state effort in the country. According to the latest figures, there are a minuscule 1.9% of Massachusetts residents who are uninsured, compared to 16.3% nationwide; 99.8% of the states children are covered. As a result of such glittering numbers, thoughtful independents and even a few democrats might give their votes to Romney. Maybe even enough votes to put this pathetic serial tax-avoider in the White House.
Soooooo…let’s set the record straight and give credit where credit is due. Making my way through Wikipedia’s sourced Massachusetts health care legislative history and roughly a dozen other sites, I’ve come to the conclusion that this fine piece of civic efficaciousness was mostly a group effort and most of the group was made up of democrats, who represented 87% of those serving in the Massachusetts legislature at the time of passage.
In running for governor, health care reform was not on the Romney agenda. Democrats, not Romney, were the first to rattle the Massachusetts health care insurance reform cage. In 2004, Romney’s second year, the Senate President introduced a modest proposal to insure half the currently uninsured. At the same time a legislative coalition collected 75,000 signatures for a ballot initiative if nothing was done about reform. And the feds threatened to cut off hundreds of millions in Medicaid money to the state if no action was taken about the embarrassing number of uninsured.
Romney is the same guy who travels the country decrying the “government takeover of health care” and that awful Uncle Sam “coming between you and your doctor.” And yet, it was the desperation to keep the government in the state health care business that goosed Mitt into getting off the schneid and making health care reform a winning issue. Obviously, Romney was anything but a heroic knight riding to the rescue on a white steed. His hand was forced from a number of directions, some within his own party.
Even with this critical issue Romney pretty much let appointed (mostly right-wing) consultants put the plan together. That’s what CEO’s do. Take the credit for others heavy lifting. His main personal involvement was to veto some key humanitarian components after passage of the final legislative compromise of a house plan, a senate plan and the final consultant consensus. The legislators virtually unanimously jumped on board (only 2 no votes) when health care reform icon, the late Massachusetts Senator, Ted Kennedy gave the end product a thumbs up.
The name of the final legislation that didn’t come along until 2006, was the Massachusetts Health Care Insurance Reform Law. Romney contributed 8 vetoes, all of which were overridden by the democratic legislature. Romney didn’t want disabled and senior LEGAL immigrants to benefit through Medicaid. To hell with dental care for the poor and let’s trash that part of the bill dedicated to funding programs for low-income children. An additional veto related to funding for public health programs. Yet another “compassionate” conservative.
It should be noted that in the prior year, there was a Romney veto of a section of a different piece of legislation that would broaden access to emergency contraception in hospitals and pharmacies. The democrats also overrode that thoughtless gesture.
At least Mitt’s consistent in his continuing derogation of women’s reproductive rights.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t refute Mitt’s massive misstatements I referred to earlier. Government takeover of health care? Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, you buy private insurance. That’s what you do. There’s government regulation of insurance though not enough of it with an endless series of unjustified private health insurance premium increases and even these nominal regulations would plunge under Romney. The 15 congressional freshmen republicans who gave up ‘the Federal Employees Health Plan’ all ended up buying from the very same companies privately that they were buying from under the federal program. That’s because you basically have the same menu of health insurance companies to choose from, federal or private. Takeover? The National Institutes of Health provide 60% of the research funding and grants that keeps you walking this earth. With low administrative costs and an extraordinary track record, Medicare and Medicaid are far superior and cheaper than anything the ultra-greedy private sector could put out there.
As for the awesomely distorted statement that the government will come between you and your doctor, that’s pure, unadulterated hogwash. Ask anybody in congress if they are instructed by the government not to go to certain doctors. The only way the government can keep you from going to a given doctor is if that doctor hasn’t graduated from an accredited medical school. If your doctor has the requisite schooling, an internship and residency, the latter largely funded by the government and an integral part of the process that allows your doctor to become a doctor, you’re free to make your way to that doctor whenever you please.
There are a number of different private plans that list certain doctors who are not in their ‘network’ and that plan won’t cover a visit or services to the extent that it would with a network doc. That’s because the network doctor lowers his/her fees in exchange for having more of that participating insurance companies patients.
It’s not the government that is coming between you and your doctor. It’s your private insurance company. It could also be the doctor who is coming between you and your doctor if that particular doctor is not accepting new patients.
There! All you’ve ever wanted to know about Romney and health care reform.
Image: Roll Over, Hitler