COMMENTARY | As the five-year anniversary of the landmark Massachusetts health care reform signed into law by Mitt Romney passed, Democrats were quick to offer congratulations Tuesday. It’s no wonder, as the reform package is seen as helping to lay the groundwork for President Obama’s health care reform initiatives.
What Democrats have termed “Romneycare” is doing most of what it set out to do. The goal of insuring all residents of the state has seen the highest success. The Division of Health Care and Policy reports that over 98 percent of people living in Massachusetts are insured, with 99.8 percent of children covered.
The report goes on to frame the biggest challenge the plan faces: rising costs. Romneycare didn’t address the cost side of the equation nearly as vigorously as Obamacare does. President Obama’s health care reforms have specific provisions aimed at controlling costs.
Some of the proposals are so comparable that if a person were to look at some of the key details of Romneycare without knowing the name it was attached to, they would think it was Obamacare.
Subsidies for the poor to purchase insurance, a mandate requiring health insurance, fees for businesses not providing insurance, and extension of family plans for young adults are parts of both plans.
Even the attacks by opponents before the passage of Romneycare were the same as we saw later against what President Obama wanted to do. The plan was assailed for allegedly paying for abortions.
In any other political climate, Romney would be running for president championing what he did as governor instead of running from it. Of course, he can’t hope to win a Republican primary without strongly attacking Obamacare. How can he do that without charges of hypocrisy?
What it seems Romney is trying to do is frame health care as a states’ rights issue. If he were president, Romney says on his first day he would grant waivers from Obamacare to all 50 states. So far, four states have received wavers.
The vast majority of waivers issued so far, detailed on the HHS site, are for employment-based plans with regard to annual limits requirements. Four states have been granted waivers from a portion of the requirements. President Obama has said he would completely exempt, and help fund, any state plan shown to meet goals better or more cost-efficiently than the national plan.
So far, only two states are working to take the president up on that: Vermont and Oregon.
The Vermont House passed single-payer, state-financed health care in March. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by the governor.
Oregon is working down the same road, even considering a state sales tax to finance universal care. There currently is no state sales tax in Oregon. The idea looks to lower costs substantially.
A person currently paying $600 per month for health insurance would have to spend about $100,000 a year on taxable items to pay that rate. A young person only paying $100 per month would need to spend $17,000 each month.
What Romney and others pushing for sate exemptions may find is that there is indeed a much better way to do health care than represented by Obamacare. It’s not by eliminating the idea, but enhancing it. It’s essentially the same path Canada followed to achieve universal health care.