Wouldn’t it be great to live in a place where 98.1 percent of all your neighbors had health insurance? How about a place where 99.8 percent of all children were insured? Imagine a place where nearly 70 percent of the public is happy with the health-care system they have? Wouldn’t it be nice to live somewhere that required your neighbor who thinks he’ll never need to see a doctor to buy insurance, so that when he inevitably visits the hospital, you won’t have to foot the bill?
I know: I’m setting the bar too high. It’s professorial. Sounds a bit hopey-changey. Not everything works outside of the classroom. It’s a nice theory, but in practice?
It wouldn’t work. It couldn’t. Employer-sponsored health insurance would be destroyed. Individuals would pay higher premiums. Any place aiming to insure such a large percentage of its residents would clearly go bankrupt. The numbers just don’t add up.
Except, they do.
Welcome to Massachusetts, where Big Brother is doing his thing.
In April 2006, Mitt Romney, then governor of the state, signed the Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Act into law with bipartisan support. In an interview with NPR, Romney was asked why he decided to revamp the Massachusetts health-care system. He responded, in part: “When the uninsured get sick or injured, they go to the emergency room, and someone has to pay for that.” Critics weren’t so sure, though. Romney was asked if the business community supported the bill. He said, “It’s 95 percent of the way each one of us likes it […] Even the business community recognizes that by getting everyone insured, that the burden of the uninsured is no longer going to be passed along to them.
A few years later, it turns out, Romney’s critics hadn’t so much to worry about. Employer-sponsored health insurance is still very much intact—2006 and 2010 saw the same number of people, 4.3 million, insured through their employers. Those buying health insurance on their own are not paying higher premiums. In fact, because reform forced healthy participants into the health-care market (through that damn mandate), non-employer health insurance premiums have, at points since 2006, been 40 percent cheaper. And the state isn’t bankrupt. It’s actually costing the state about as much as the government had projected.
You would think the Massachusetts health reform success story would be one of Romney’s proudest achievements. But then, Obama stole it! Somewhere, Donald Trump should be calling for Obama’s college papers to uncover a plagiarism scandal.
And that’s the great irony of our current political moment: Mitt Romney has distanced himself from health reform in Massachusetts and committed himself to a campaign in defense of Bain Capital.
To me, though, there is no better paradox to explain the new conservative party. Romney will have to repudiate his own legislative success in order to win the White House. He’ll have to say that getting 98.1 percent of Massachusetts residents insured wasn’t as important as his job-creator role at Bain Capital.
Why? Because free market, good; socialism, bad. Businessman, good; governor, bad.
Republicans have dumbed down the discussion so much that it’s no longer about what works, it’s about sticking to your guns (no pun intended—maybe), no matter what. And that means, “whatever Obama does is wrong, and whatever we do is right.”
Mitt Romney can’t win as Mitt Romney. He has to become the Republican puppet. The best part is, Obama can win as Mitt Romney (well, kind of).
That’s why I’m proposing a new bumper sticker for Obama: “In Defense of Mitt: RomneyCare for All. Vote Obama 2012.”