Politics

Mitt Romney vs. Obamacare (Which is Based on Romney's Ideas)

| by Reason Foundation

By Peter Suderman

Mitt Romney wants to be president. And at this point, he's stuck with the Republican party as the vehicle. And that means he's going to have to run against ObamaCare. That's awkward, though, because Romney presided over the creation of Massachusetts' health care overhaul, which served as the model for ObamaCare. This is going to be fun watch:

"Overall, ours is a model that works," Romney said in response to a question after a speech at Iowa State University. “We solved our problem at the state level. Like it or not, it was a state solution. Why is it that President Obama is stepping in and saying ‘one size fits all’ ’’

Obama’s signing of a federal health care law has put Romney — a possible 2012 presidential candidate — again on the defensive over the most significant achievement in his brief career in public office. The former governor, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate again for president in 2012, had labeled Obama’s bill “unhealthy for America’’ and has called for its repeal, even as conservative critics say it was modeled on Romney’s policy.

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Yesterday, Romney proudly acknowledged that his bill included a set of new insurance regulations that “President Obama always likes to talk about in his health care plan — the good stuff.’’ Romney trumpeted the achievement of near-universal coverage in Massachusetts, while declining to acknowledge that the mechanism he used to achieve that goal — a requirement that individuals buy private insurance — is the same as the much-criticized mandate of Obama’s plan.

The accounting of “some similarities’’ and “some differences’’ between the two systems was a more delicate comparison than Romney has offered recently, when he wholly rejected the idea that the two had anything significant in common.

“People often compare his plan to the Massachusetts plan,’’ Romney said in an interview last month. “They’re as different as night and day. There are some words that sound the same, but our plan is based on states solving our issues; his is based on a one-size-fits-all plan.’’

Meanwhile, the state system's success—or lack thereof—is being debated at the state level as well. Timothy P. Cahill, for example, has left the Democratic party and is running for governor as an independent. He's currently the state treasurer, and he's out strong against the state's reform plan. Here's a sample from a recent The Wall Street Journal op-ed:

As state treasurer, I can speak with authority about the Massachusetts pilot program. It has been a fiscal train wreck.

The universal insurance coverage we adopted in 2006 was projected to cost taxpayers $88 million a year. However, since this program was adopted in 2006, our health-care costs have in total exceeded $4 billion. The cost of Massachusetts' plan has blown a hole in the Commonwealth's budget. Just last Thursday, Gov. Deval Patrick's office announced a $294 million shortfall related to health-care costs.

If not for federal Medicaid reimbursements and commitments from Washington to prop up this plan, Massachusetts would be broke. The only reason MassCare has survived is that we have been repeatedly bailed out by the federal government.  

The passage of ObamaCare has made it exceedingly difficult for Mitt Romney to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (though given the likely weak field, anything is possible). He's going to have to defend the Massachusetts plan and attack the Obama plan, which are essentially the same thing, and do so without reigniting old charges that he's a flip flopper. How will he differentiate his state's plan, aside from the fact that it was limited to a single state? And how will he respond to the fact that the state's treasurer is arguing loudly that the plan is a fiscal catastrophe? I suspect this will be entertaining. But it's not likely to be successful.

I've noted the failures of the Massachusetts system on multiple occasions