During Thursday’s Republican primary debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dismissed Rick Santorum’s claim that people in the Bay State are leaching off the state-mandated health care system by saying “First of all, it’s not worth getting angry about.”
Not worth getting angry about? Really?
“Yeah, Gov. Romney, there is something to get mad about,” Santorum said on Fox News, referring to Romney’s statement at Thursday night’s debate in Jacksonville that his health care record was nothing to get “angry about.”
“People — you and Barack Obama and others and Newt Gingrich want to tell Americans that as a condition of breathing in America, you have to go out and buy private sector insurance so the government will fine you, is something that people get angry about.”
Santorum noted Friday that he had addressed the issue not with anger but with passion, and repeated that the eventual GOP nominee must be able to draw a stark contrast to Obamacare.
“And what Gov. Romney did last night was stand up and forcefully defend government controlling the health care system at the state level,” Santorum said. “The bottom line is, he’s for government control of health care, which is not a conservative principle, which does not differentiate himself between President Obama, and that is a big, big liability for us going into this general election.”
I did a little research (as I am wont to do), and discovered that Romneycare is indeed “worth getting angry about.”
On June 22, 2010, Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute wrote the following:
One of the main arguments for both RomneyCare (the health care law Massachusetts enacted in 2006) and ObamaCare (the federal law enacted in March of this year) is that once the government mandates that everyone purchase health insurance, premiums will fall due to broader pooling. A new study published by the Forum for Health Economics & Policy suggests the opposite.
Supporters of those laws, like MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber, point to data showing that premiums for individually purchased health insurance policies in Massachusetts fell after 2006. Yet that was expected, and is not evidence that RomneyCare reduced health insurance costs. RomneyCare merged Massachusetts’ “individual” health insurance market with the market for small employers. The individual market accounts for just 4 percent of the private market, and premiums in that market were higher than for employment-based coverage. When the two markets merged, the price controls that Massachusetts imposes on health insurance led to an averaging of premiums: premiums for individual purchasers fell, and premiums for small-business employees increased to pick up the slack. That is, RomneyCare shifted costs from people who purchase their own coverage to workers who obtain coverage on the job.
Economists John Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler compared premiums for job-based coverage in Massachusetts, before and after RomneyCare, to job-based premiums nationwide. They found evidence that RomneyCare increased employer-sponsored insurance premiums, particularly at small firms:
We find that health reform in Massachusetts increased single-coverage employer-sponsored insurance premiums by about 6 percent in aggregate, and by about 7 percent for firms with fewer than 50 employees. The effect of reform on family premiums is less uniform. If Massachusetts is compared to the nation as a whole, reform had a modest 1.5 percent effect on family premiums. However, in the Boston MSA, and among employees of small firms, the effect of reform on family premiums was much greater. Family premiums grew by about 8 percent more in Boston than in the 19 largest other MSAs from 2006-08, as compared to 2004-06. For small employers, the differential Massachusetts/US growth in small-group premiums from 2006-08, over and above the growth from 2004-06, was 14.4 percent.
Their study is subject to important limitations. But it is getting harder and harder to claim that RomneyCare — and ObamaCare, which is just RomneyCare 2.0 — are going to reduce costs.
And then, I found this little tidbit at National Review Online, published on September 15, 2011, which is a summary of information culled from the Boston Herald:
The Beacon Hill Institute study found that, on average, Romneycare:
Cost the Bay State 18,313 jobs;
Drove up total health insurance costs in Massachusetts by $4.311 billion;
Slowed the growth of disposable income per person by $376;
Reduced investment in Massachusetts by $25.06 million.
The method used:
The institute analyzed trends in health-care costs before and after the state law was passed. Researchers compared the Bay State’s numbers to national health-care cost trends. They found that instead of reducing health-care expenses as advocates had promised, Romneycare actually increased costs by $4.3 billion. Using computer modeling to determine the effect of those increased costs on businesses and Bay State residents, the institute concluded that the law has cost Massachusetts an average of 18,313 jobs.
If I was one of those who lost their jobs, I would be pretty angry, Governor.
As they always say on the late-night Ronco Info-mercials, “But wait! There’s more!”
“Let me tell you, there’s a big difference between what we did and what President Obama is doing,” Romney said in a Mar. 7, 2010 Fox News Sunday interview.
“What we did, I think, is the ultimate conservative plan. We said people have to take responsibility for getting insurance, if they can afford it, or paying their own way. No more free- riders. And we solved this at the state level – not a federal plan, but a state plan.”
Romney went on to describe the mandate as the “biggest pro” of his health care plan.
“It’s a plan that has pros and cons,” he said. “The biggest pro, in my view, is that we don’t have free riders now expecting other people to pay for their health care costs. And we’re also able to have individuals, who otherwise would not have the kind of specialty care they need, receiving treatment.”
Two weeks later Romney said during an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, “right now in this country, people that don’t have health insurance go to the hospital if they get a serious illness, and they get treated for free by government. My plan says no, they can’t do that. No more free riders. People have to take personal responsibility. I consider it a conservative plan.”
Governor Romney, I do not think that you know what the word “conservative” means.