Failure of Mass. Health Care Reform Could Compromise Romney Presidential Run

COMMENTARY | Tuesday represented the 5-year anniversary of the landmark health care bill then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in Massachusetts. Democrats were quick to shower Romney with praise for offering an inspiration for President Obama’s health care plan in what was an obvious attack on his 2012 presidential ambitions.

It should not be seen as coincidental that Romney chose the same date to announce he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. Romney’s campaign desperately needs to find a way to avoid the healthcare issue from being the defining issue of the primary season.

When Romney championed his healthcare plan back in 2006, it was undoubtedly designed to take one of Hillary Clinton’s most cherished issues and accomplish what she couldn’t. By showcasing a universal health care plan that lowered costs, Romney’s team thought they had found their ticket to the White House. Of course, it has not worked out as Romney envisioned it would.

The conservative base has vehemently rejected “ObamaCare” on the basis of several features that it shares with “RomneyCare.” The main similarity is that both plans necessitate individual mandates. This means that under both plans everyone must purchase health insurance or they will risk being assessed a fine.

Both plans significantly expand Medicaid and offer subsidies on a sliding scale in order to offset costs not covered by the plan’s other components. Both plans consist of health insurance exchanges designed to provide individuals and employers with options for a wide variety of plans that in theory would allow them to select one with premiums most suitable for their needs. Both plans force mandates upon employers to offer insurance to their employees.

Opponents of “ObamaCare” can use the fact that “RomneyCare” has been a failure to attack the president’s plan. Rather than live up to Romney’s assertion that “RomneyCare” represented “the ultimate conservative plan,” the Wall Street Journal revealed that greater than half of the newly insured people under Romney’s plan pay nothing. Surely, conservatives will argue about the program permitting free riders and a culture of dependence rather than advocating personal responsibility. A study by the Cato Institute further argued that “RomneyCare” is plagued by spiraling costs and too much bureaucratic regulation that has resulted in less effective care. “ObamaCare” is vulnerable to the same criticisms.

Supporters of “ObamaCare” can take little comfort from the results of “RomneyCare.” There is a strong possibility “ObamaCare” will be as ineffective as “RomneyCare.” The health care system needs a comprehensive overhaul and restructuring that would make politicians force tough sacrifices on insurance companies, drug manufacturers, and medical care providers. Unfortunately, the prospect of that occurring in the near future seems remote at best; genuine health care reform seems to be something that will continue to elude this country for many years to come.