A Lesson for Mitt and More

I read The Wall Street Journal yesterday while drinking coffee and staring at the ocean from the porch of my father’s beach house.

Politics, however, never really comes up anymore.  Both he and my stepmother have fallen in the past few years on the left side of the traditional political spectrum, still enamored with the president’s campaign trail eloquence and the nebulous promises of “change,” and still holding on to the feeling that 2004-2008 is indicative of the Republican Party.

From time to time, I get the feeling that the lustre of the Obama presidency has faded for them as well — but they’re family, and they’re super-sweet, so I don’t press the issue.  I don’t edit America’s Right at the dining room table during the day; they spare me the sound of Chris Matthews becoming aroused at the sound of his own voice at night.

I did, however, leave Grace-Marie Turner’s excellent commentary, entitled The Failure of RomneyCare, out where they could see it.

Turner’s piece on RomneyCare is fantastic on two levels: First, it points out how and why Mitt Romney’s own little government-run health care project has failed and how it could be a harbinger of things to come with regard to ObamaCare, and second, it draws attention to a serious problem facing the former Massachusetts governor as he prepares for that inevitable charge for the presidency in 2012.

On the first level, there’s this little snippet:

While Massachusetts’ uninsured rate has dropped to around 3%, 68% of the newly insured since 2006 receive coverage that is heavily or completely subsidized by taxpayers. While Mr. Romney insisted that everyone should pay something for coverage, that is not the way his plan has turned out. More than half of the 408,000 newly insured residents pay nothing, according to a February 2010 report by the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s insurance exchange.

Another 140,000 remained uninsured in 2008 and were either assessed a penalty or exempted from the individual mandate because the state deemed they couldn’t afford the premiums.

Mr. Romney’s promise that getting everyone covered would force costs down also is far from being realized. One third of state residents polled by Harvard researchers in a study published in “Health Affairs” in 2008 said that their health costs had gone up as a result of the 2006 reforms. A typical family of four today faces total annual health costs of nearly $13,788, the highest in the country. Per capita spending is 27% higher than the national average.

The similarities between MassCare and the health care reform currently being peddled by Barack Obama and his democrats are numerous.  Both plans feature mandates on both an individual and business level.  Both prominently feature health insurance exchanges.  Both force insurers to provide coverage to people who have already fallen ill.  And the list goes on.

It’s obvious that the system in Massachusetts has failed, especially when considered alongside the health savings account-heavy system touted by Mitch Daniels in Indiana.  One is operating at a deficit, while the other boasts a surplus.  One fosters increased dependence upon government, while the other relies upon individual freedom and choice.  Two different states, two different programs, two different outcomes — that’s where the second overarching point from Turner’s commentary comes in.

While it’s true that the liberal Massachusetts legislature did turn Mr. Romney’s plan to the left, his claims that his plan is “entirely different” will not stand up to the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign, especially a primary challenge. Mr. Romney needs to be more honest about his Massachusetts experiment and its failings.

Mr. Romney insisted in a recent interview on “Fox News Sunday” that “our plan is working well,” and he defended his state’s right to create its own plan. He also said in his book “No Apology” that because of the plan everyone in Massachusetts now has access to “portable, affordable health insurance.” Not exactly.

Not exactly, indeed.  Not only is Mitt Romney missing the point when it comes to the factual realities of MassCare, but he could very well stand to squander an opportunity to distinguish between his own politics and policies and the politics and policies of the incumbent he could very well be running against in the fall of 2012.

To his credit, Romney has acknowledged that MassCare has good points and bad. But instead of trying to spin the floundering program into something it clearly is not, Romney should admit that on many levels the health care program in Massachusetts has been an abject failure, but emphasize that any adverse consequences will be limited to the Bay State, and will serve as a valuable lesson for any other states considering similar reforms.

America has already decided with regard to government involvement in health care.  With every passing day, Americans are confronted with new news of adverse consequences already manifesting themselves.  Whether it is American seniors losing Medicare Advantage coverage or–just breaking today–drugstores saying “no new Medicaid,” it’s not going to be enough for Mitt Romney to stand up and say, “well, my system is working … trust me.”

Romney must distinguish between MassCare and ObamaCare where he can, but where he cannot he must remember that, at its heart, this issue is an issue of federalism.  During his brief appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman a few weeks ago, Romney touched upon the point that the success or failure of RomneyCare (or MassCare, or whatever you want to call it) has proven to be a great example of the states-as-laboratories approach to governance on the federal level.

But it’s not going to be enough.  I’d like to hear more, not only distinguishing but using the similarities to his advantage.

“We screwed up, and I am very willing to admit that the system up there sounded better on paper,” is what I would like to hear from Mitt Romney. “But, ultimately, the failure of the MassCare system only underscores the importance of keeping the issue of sweeping health care reform out of the hands of the federal government.  Should the health care reforms being advocated by the Democrats fail as the system in Massachusetts did, the consequences would be absolutely nation-crushing.  Therefore, as much as we failed in Massachusetts with regard to health care reform, we absolutely succeeded in showing the entire nation that this is something best approached by the individual states, not the federal government.”

We must be able to admit our mistakes, and here Romney has a chance to not only do that, but also to distinguish between his program and Barack Obama’s program by pointing out why a federalist system is so important.

So, in a sense, Turner’s piece in the Journal provided a lesson not only for Mitt Romney, but for all of us.  For Mitt Romney, the piece pointed out that his current approach to dealing with the elephant in the room just isn’t working, and that he needs to not only cop to his mistakes in judgment, but point out how we can learn as a nation from the failure of MassCare.  And for the rest of us, we should have learned from the adverse consequences of Massachusetts’ program, and understand exactly what could face America as a whole should this massive entitlement program pass.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to check on my daughter, who is currently sleeping right under a giant Barack Obama poster.  No kidding.  As Obama posters go, though, it’s a nice one — I just hope she doesn’t have nightmares about wealth redistribution and a detente-at-all-costs approach to foreign policy.

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Comments

  1. NoSnoozeForYou says:

    Even on vacation, Jeff, do you ever sleep?

  2. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Snooze,

    I try. This isn’t a typical vacation, though, as we are using my father’s place as a base camp of sorts for planning out our move in a few months. Every day this week so far, either Joanna or I have had job interviews (keep your fingers crossed, because I think she actually may have found one), and both of us have interviews today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday). We’ve been looking at apartments, schools and storage facilities as well. Not even once have we had the chance to stick our toes in the sand. So, writing for AR at any reasonable time is unfortunately out.

    With any luck, after the last interview on Friday, we’ll have a chance to relax until we drive the 11 hours back home on Sunday. So, I’ll tell you right now — don’t expect anything from me here over the weekend. It just ain’t happenin’.

    Thanks for your concern, though. If it’s all right with you, though, I want to hit the hay.

    Jeff

  3. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Before I forget…

    There is, coming up soon, another great interview put together by John Feeny. Hopefully, I can get that up and running before Friday.

    Now … g’nap.

    Jeff

  4. Lilly says:

    I had not seen that article yet, thank you! I agree with you totally, as always! Good luck to you and Joanna!! I feel so sorry for your daughter though. Can’t you cover it up with something? ;-)

  5. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Nah, Lilly. It’s a French poster, and in terms of art it’s really well done.

    In fact, it doesn’t bug me anymore. The only thing that bugs me is the nagging question of whether there’s a foreign Jimmy Carter print around here somewhere too.

  6. Randy Wills says:

    Thanks, Jeff, for another great article – fair and balanced and to the point.

    This (the healthcare program) is not the only albatross that Mitt Romney has around his neck from his stint as governor of one of the most liberal states in the Union. He’s proven himself to be a political chameleon on moral issues such as same-sex marriage and the right-to-life.

    And if there’s one lesson that we should have learned it is NEVER to elect a person based on anything else other than their performance in past positions where they’ve had a chance to make decisions regarding the key problems that they would face (increased by an order of magnitude) in the position that they are aspiring to.

    I’ll be one discouraged conservative voter in 2012 if Romney turns out to be the Republican candidate. Will we have learned nothing from our experience with the smooth-talking, good-looking, President that the nation elected last time?

    Randy

  7. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Randy,

    I don’t happen to think the federal government should even be involved in same-sex marriage or abortion. At all. So long as he agrees, I’m fine with that.

    Jeff

  8. Gail B. says:

    I admire your restraint with your dad and step-mom.

    I admire you, too, Jeff.

    Only two more months to go!

    Great article, BTW.

  9. Randy Wills says:

    I agree with you (that certain issues should be dealt with at the state level), but in the world that I worked in an analogy might be this: If a department manager screwed up and then applied for a higher level job, a smart manager would say, “maybe you have leared your lesson, but let’s try you again at the same level job that you screwed before we promote you to a higher level, higher risk, position.

    I say, “Mitt, if you’ve become a social and fiscal conservative since your last stint as governor of Massachusetts, go back and run again IN THAT STATE on the platform that you now supposedly espouse and see how that works out before you you ask us to take your “change of heart” seriously.

    Randy

  10. Randy Wills says:

    Sorry. I left out a couple of words (“up in”) afer “screwed” in the last line of the first paragraph above. Getting to be a habit with me.

    Randy

  11. PP says:

    I don’t know who is in charge of floating out the short list of candidates that THEY want us to consider, but I can tell you right now that Mitt won’t get my vote.

    If someone is unwilling to admit their mistakes, that’s not a good sign. I’m going to be ready for some deep humility after sitting through four years of the most prideful, shameless administration ever!

  12. Dale Kemp says:

    Mitt has been here in Utah campaigning on behalf of Sen. Bennett against some solid for real conservatives. I can’t think of a better reason to reject Romney and all his flip flopping I’ll do or say anything to get your vote ways.

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