Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?

Former Governor Romney goes to great lengths in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Where Hillary Care Goes Wrong," (WSJ op/ed, p. A-13, Sept 20,2007) to dispel the notion that the healthcare plan he signed into law (Romney Care) as he was leaving office in 2006 is essentially similar to Hillary Clinton’s recently unveiled "universal" healthcare plan.

Romney says, "Let’s be clear here: My plan in Massachusetts worked very differently from the way Senator Clinton’s plan would." Actually, his plan was quite similar to Hillary’s "universal" plan-paradoxically titled "Healthy Choices"– in that it increased government mandates, regulation, costs, and bureaucracy with less choice for consumers. It was also the same plan that was praised by Hillary herself (Ted Kennedy too).

Romney claims that "we worked to reduce the burdens of regulation." If only this were true. While Romney may have "worked to reduce" regulation, his plan significantly increased government regulation by mandating that every citizen purchase insurance either through their employer, the government, or on their own — the first time ever that a state has mandated that citizens be forced to purchase a state defined product. The Congressional Budget Office noted that this level of government intervention and regulation was "unprecedented." Businesses with more than 10 employees were forced to provide health insurance or pay a "fee" of up to $295 per employee per year. Even though he vetoed this specific provision of the bill (which was over-ridden by the legislature), Romney still signed the bill. As a result, there are now calls for increasing the "fee" due to fund the growing costs of the subsidized programs.

Romney Care also significantly expanded government bureaucracy establishing at least a dozen new boards, commissions, and miscellaneous institutions. One of the commissions is charged with the responsibility of eliminating "racial and ethnic health disparities."

The former governor’s plan did virtually nothing to reduce the burdensome and expensive state mandates that force insurance companies to cover about 40 very costly benefits such as in vitro fertilization and hair prostheses that have significantly increased the cost of insurance coverage.

The subsidies of his plan total over a billion dollars which have not only increased the cost of healthcare in Massachusetts but has made more citizens dependent upon the government for their healthcare in direct contradiction to Romney’s assertion that his plan increased individual responsibility.

In a commentary in the Wall Street Journal on February 26, 2007 Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, described Romney Care as "an intensive care package" that only months after it was signed into law was already costing Massachusetts’ taxpayers more than $150 million more than the public had been told the plan would cost. Furthermore, average premiums for unsubsidized healthcare coverage increased sharply to $380 per month (Romney had promised $200 average monthly premiums).

While Romney Care did include some genuine free market initiatives — such as allowing HMOs to offer tax free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) — many of its features were almost identical to Hillary 2.0 including increased regulation of the private insurance market, command style government mandates, establishment of an "artificial marketplace," reduced consumer choice, and increased regulation of the private insurance market.

Romney is known as a "John Kerry Flip Flopper" because of his politically expedient vacillating positions on many issues ranging from abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration, and gun control. We can now add healthcare to the list. Despite his claims to the contrary, Romney Care was an attempt to provide "universal" healthcare at the state level using the heavy hand of government to enforce it. And it has been a dismal failure and one of the primary reasons that Massachusetts’ businesses and individuals are fleeing the state in record numbers and is one of only two states in the country to lose population two years in a row.

Romney knows this and has recently unveiled a "new and improved" plan of his own including some key market based features such as allowing individuals to write off health care expenses, capping junk law suits, and expanding HSAs.

Nevertheless, Romney should come clean with the voters and admit that, Hillary Care 2.0 which he rightly derides, is almost identical to Romney care 1.0 —  the very socialistic health care plan he left Bay state residents with on his way out the door in January of this year.