TEMECULA, California — Just as most folks maintain a healthy distance from those with contagious diseases, John McCain would be wise to keep Willard Mitt Romney at arm’s length. Choosing him for vice-president would infect McCain with the worsening symptoms of RomneyCare. The former Massachusetts governor’s signature “achievement” already looks destined for the emergency room.
Bay State political observers call RomneyCare “The New Big Dig.” Like downtown Boston’s notorious roadway project that ran $12.2 billion beyond its $2.6 billion budget, RomneyCare is becoming a huge fiscal sinkhole.
RomneyCare has reduced Massachusetts’ uninsured population from an estimated 657,000 to about 307,000. Among these 350,000 newly covered people, some 174,000 joined Commonwealth Care, a government-supported plan that insures families of four up to 300 percent of the federal poverty line, or roughly $63,000 in annual income. Another 55,000 people joined Medicaid, which is funded by local and federal tax dollars. Only about 18,000 have purchased private insurance.
Given these brigades of new beneficiaries, the Pacific Research Institute’s Sally Pipes writes that “the program is in intensive care, surviving only on massive infusions of other people’s money.” The numbers are staggering:
RomneyCare should cost taxpayers $625 million in 2008. That’s $153 million, or 32 percent, beyond this year’s original $472 million appropriation. For 2009, costs may hit $869 million, or another $244 million, 39 percent premium above today’s already vertiginous spending curve.
Unfortunately, Massachusetts residents love “free” and cheap healthcare, at someone else’s expense. As usual these days, everybody parties, and then taxpayers spend the next morning collecting the empty bottles and cleaning the overflowing ashtrays. This mop-up will cost at least $129 million in new taxes, as Romney’s Democratic successor, Deval Patrick, proposes. As the July 29 Wall Street Journal reports, this includes one-time (one hopes) taxes of $33 million on insurers, $28 million on medical providers, and another $33 million on businesses.
Some 307,000 residents remain uncovered. So, RomneyCare still is not “universal,” as advertised, despite the plan’s cornerstone — a mandate that requires every individual in Massachusetts to have health insurance. (“I like mandates,” Romney chirped at a January 5 GOP presidential debate.) Among these uninsured, state legislators excused about 130,000 from the mandate. Tens of thousands more either ignore this law or pay annual fines of up to $219, and rising. Why? Such penalties are cheaper than health coverage, particularly now that so many frustrated insurers have fled Massachusetts. Eventually, some of these people will get sick. Invoice the taxpayers, yet again.
Compulsion aside, RomneyCare also features subsidies, regulations, and an ominous-sounding authority called The Connector.
Likewise, ObamaCare involves Johnsonesque controls, rather than market-driven choice and competition.
McCain, in contrast, wisely proposes expanded Health Savings Accounts plus tax credits ($2,500 for individuals; $5,000 for families) to help Americans purchase insurance that they — not their employers — would own, manage, and transport throughout their lives and careers. McCain would let Americans buy coverage across state lines. Stiffly regulated New Yorkers, for instance, could buy simpler, cheaper plans from, say, Colorado-based insurers.
McCain, to his eternal credit, opposed President Bush’s needlessly extravagant Medicare drug entitlement which, like RomneyCare, marched 180 degrees the wrong way. McCain now has standing to criticize Obama’s Washington-driven health reform. But with Romney in the mix, the Democratic standard-bearer will deflect such arguments without breaking a sweat.
“John McCain should know that I want a national version of what his VP nominee signed as governor,” Obama could say. “Mitt Romney should explain all of this to John McCain.” RomneyCare’s outlays, functionaries, and directives, which nauseate free-marketeers, would tantalize Obama. Thus, with Romney around, McCain and the GOP will be unable to challenge Obama’s hyper-statist healthcare vision.
Most incredibly, when Romney signed this legislation, it reserved Planned Parenthood a slot on the 15-member MassHealth Payment Policy Advisory Board. While pro-lifers have no such guarantee, abortion advocates by law have a place at the table that Romney built.
RomneyCare unmasks its architect as a RINO (Republican in Name Only) whose vast, bungled, tax-funded boondoggle gives aid and comfort to advocates of abortion on demand. Fiscal and social conservatives should insist that this program, atop the former governor’s serial flip-flops and other shortcomings, must disqualify Willard Mitt Romney from the 2008 Republican Party ticket.