Can Gov. Romney's continued insistence that RomneyCare, with its individual mandate and minimum insurance requirements, was right for Massachusetts be reconciled with his stated opposition to ObamaCare?
In today's Wall Street Journal, Grace-Marie Turner considers that question and highlights all the ways that Massachusetts' health care system mirrors the worst of the new federal law:
Mr. Romney's attempt to contrast his plan with ObamaCare wasn't convincing. "I don't like the Obama plan," he said in Thursday's debate. "His plan cuts Medicare by $500 billion. We didn't, of course, touch anything like that. He raises taxes by $500 billion. We didn't do that."
These are bogus boasts: States have no authority over cuts in the federal Medicare program, so cutting Medicare never was an option with RomneyCare. Massachusetts didn't raise taxes to finance its plan because it relied on previously enacted health-insurance taxes and an infusion of federal Medicaid money to finance its coverage expansion. The state simply passed a big share of its costs to federal taxpayers.
… [A] study is from the liberal Families USA, which credits John McDonough and explains he "was deeply involved" in developing both RomneyCare and ObamaCare. Among the key checkpoints showing the similarities between the two plans: "RomneyCare authorizes 'tiers' of insurance coverage, which are called Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Young Adult . . . ObamaCare sets the following tiers for policies: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Young Adult." And government will specify which benefits must be included in health plans under both reform laws. Mr. McDonough earlier said the federal law is "Massachusetts with three more zeros."
Americans shouldn't be satisfied with the argument that it's less awful to have states violate fundamental freedoms than to have the feds do so.
Yes, certainly if you had to pick one, you'd rather one state impose draconian mandates than have them come from the whole federal government. Massachusetts residences can vote with their feet and move to more freedom-loving states. It's harder to pick up and leave the country.
Yet this is hardly a reason to embrace the state-level law as a net positive. If it's wrong for the feds to force people to buy something, it's hard to see why its such a great idea for the Governor to do so.
Moreover, while health care policy analysts can quibble about the exact effects of RomneyCare—has it made emergency rooms more crowded, how much more expensive are average premiums, and how many are gaming the system to buy just-in-time insurance—the health care debate really shouldn't come down to such utilitarian arguments.
The core issue in the health care debate is about the proper role of government and what it means to be a free citizen. Defeating ObamaCare shouldn't be about splitting hairs about state regulations vs. federal ones. We need an unabashed advocate of the idea of limited government who will reject the entire concept that government should be in the business of deciding what we must and must not buy, and what kind of health insurance is right for Americans.
In this case, the call for “state's rights” isn't anywhere near sufficient. Gov. Romney is going to have to do much better if he wants to convince those concerned about ObamaCare that he is the right guy to pick up our cause.