Three Cheers against Romney Care

Last October, one political pundit explained how a mere 3 percentage point decline in Massachusetts’ uninsured rate after the enactment of Romney Care showed the failure of universal health care at even a state level. She did not like the policy itself, but thought that Romney had the best chance of winning out of any of the candidates. Essentially, the Buckley rule was being practiced, that we vote for the most electable conservative candidate, the key word being electable. Over the next two months, this tongue-in-cheek endorsement transformed into full-fledged support, climaxing with a column titled “Three Cheers for Romneycare.” This pundit I speak of is Ann Coulter.

Coulter begins her column by listing various center-right individuals and institutions who supported the concept of mandated health insurance which was central of Romney Care. Among them are Reason magazine columnist Ronald Bailey, the Heritage Foundation, and Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger. While Ron Bailey does favor an individual mandate, Reason magazine as a whole does not. Furthermore, while a Heritage health care analyst mentioned in her article named Bob Moffit may have flown down to Boston for the bill signing like she says, most articles on Heritage present an opposing view. Had Coulter mentioned that Heritage has published an article titled “The Case Against Individual Mandates,” or even that Moffit appeared on Fox News in 2010 referring to the individual mandate as a tax increase, her article would’ve had nothing to stand on. Last is the endorsement of Regina Herzlinger, and having actually read her book I can say that her endorsement isn’t as strong as Coulter makes it seem. On pages 253-54 of her book “Who Killed Health Care,” Herzlinger points out a legitimate criticism of Romney Care’s individual mandate that she’s seen raised; that purchasing car insurance is required by law in almost every state while purchasing health insurance is voluntary, yet both share similar rates of people lacking their coverage. She reassured her audience however that Romney Care “retains excessive government meddling in the design of insurance plans,” and believes that this is a good thing. Most conservatives, including Coulter should be begging to differ.

A mere mention of leftist supporters of Romney Care were absent from her column. Standing directly behind Romney during the signing of his bill was the late Ted Kennedy. The Massachusetts Democratic Party has even released a YouTube video thanking Mitt Romney for this health care plan five years after it went into law. The Democratic Party of New Hampsure’s chairman Ray Buckley joined in praise, holding an event in celebration, while Iowa’s Democratic Party said that Romney’s plan “laid the groundwork for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.”

Coulter then tries to differentiate between Obama Care and Romney Care. Ironically, while she notes in the beginning of her column that many conservatives helped design Romney Care,

she never mentions that three of the same health care experts who helped design Romney Care also helped design Obama Care. It should be no surprise then, that the differences between the health care reforms of Romney and Obama are scarce. As Politifact outlines, both plans have an individual mandate, make employers responsible for offering health insurance, offer affordability subsidies, expand Medicaid, and regulate the insurance market. The only part where the bills differ is in cost containment, financing, and constitutionality. As Coulter correctly observes, Romney Care is permitted under the Constitution, but something simply being constitutional does not make it a success.

While Romney Care did succeed in expanding health insurance, it failed in cost containment and sustaining the quality of care. In 2003, Massachusetts had the largest health care costs in the country at $3,496 per person, and $9,876 for a family plan. By 2009, the national average rose to $4,669 per person, while Massachusetts rose to $5,268. When measured on the basis of family plans, Massachusetts showed a 40% increase in costs to $13,788 compared to the national
average’s 33% increase to $12,298. Massachusetts still has the most costly health care system of the states.

While it can certainly be considered a success that Romney Care decreased the number uninsured citizens, the average wait time for care has increased steadily. The wait time to see a doctor in Boston is the longest in any city with times averaging at 50 days. This pattern is similar in the rest of Massachusetts. Aside from cardiology, the waiting time for nearly all procedures has increased. The waiting time for orthopedic surgery has increased from 24 days to 40 days, OB/GYN from 45 days to 70 days, and dermatology from 50 to 54. Waiting times for appointments range from 24 days to see a pediatrician to 48 days to see an internist (peaking at 53 days in 2010). Those believing that Romney Care has reduced care quality outnumber those who believe otherwise three to one. Access to a waiting list and access to quality care are not the same.

While I normally find Coulter’s columns engaging, entertaining, and hilarious, this column was childish and stale. She even goes as far as to mock Newt Gingerich’s name — all while defending a man named Mitt.

Author’s credit: Matt can be reached at [email protected]

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