Mitt Romney Claims Romneycare Is “Working Pretty Well”


Mitt Romney’s defense of Romneycare to conservatives has always hinged on federalism. That sort of policy wouldn’t be right nationally, but states are free to implement it. And he’s right, but that doesn’t change the fact that Romneycare is top-down, government-controlled health care of the sort no conservative should support whatever level of government is supporting it.

So you wouldn’t think Romney would want to spend a lot of time on the campaign trail talking about health care policy that is a) extremely unpopular with his base and b) isn’t all that dissimilar from the national policy he castigates his opponent Barack Obama for.

You wouldn’t think, anyway:

Mitt Romney is invoking his Massachusetts healthcare law in the lead-up to the Republican convention, alarming conservatives who argue it’s a losing issue for his campaign.

Romney’s new willingness to talk about the issue could be a sign that he thinks the Massachusetts law could help him in November.

“My healthcare plan I put in place in my state has everyone insured,” Romney told a CBS reporter on Thursday. In a second interview, he called the law an “important accomplishment” that is “working, by and large, pretty well.”

Setting aside the ideological questions, the fact is that Romneycare isn’t working “pretty well.” And you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan, who called the Massachusetts health insurance system “unsustainable” back in 2010:

I’m not a fan of the system … I’ve got some relatives up there in Massachusetts. My uncle’s a cardiologist in Boston and I’ve talked to a lot of health folks up there who — what’s happening now is because costs are getting out of control, premiums are increasing in Massachusetts and now you have a bureaucracy that is having to put all these controls and now rationing on the system. So people in Massachusetts are saying, yes we have virtually universal health care — I think it’s like 96, 98 percent insured — but they see the system bursting by the seams. They see premium increases, rationing and benefit cuts. And they are frustrated with this system. No. 1, they don’t want to pay for another system on top of it … No. 2, they see how this idea of having the government being the single regulator of health insurance defining what kind of health insurance you can have, and then an individual mandate, it is a fatal conceit, and these kinds of systems, as we are now seeing in Massachusetts, are unsustainable.

In 2011 Doug Bandow took a look at Romneycare and found that while the policy did result in a modest increase in the percentage of citizens insured, it came at a heavy cost:

To be sure, it has caused about 95 to 96 percent of Massachusetts residents to be insured. But 90 percent or more were insured before the law passed.

And so Gov. Romney’s accomplishment was actually quite modest. But the cost has been anything but.

Last year Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill wrote that Romneycare “was projected to cost taxpayers $88 million a year. However, since this program was adopted in 2006, our health-care costs have in total exceeded $4 billion.”

Romneycare spread the financial pain widely. In June, the Beacon Hill Institute estimated higher costs of $8.6 billion since the law was implemented. Just $414 million was paid by Massachusetts.

Medicaid (federal payments) covered $2.4 billion. Medicare took care of $1.4 billion. Even more costs, $4.3 billion, have been imposed on the private sector mdash; employers, insurers and residents.

As expenses have risen, so have insurance premiums. Economists John F. Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler estimate that Romneycare inflated premiums by 6 percent from 2006 to 2008.

That hardly sounds like policy which is working.

Politically speaking, I really don’t understand the argument Romney is trying to make by touting Romneycare. It’s essentially the same policy as Obamacare, only implemented at the state level. Is Romney arguing that this sort of governemnt-controlled health care policy ought to be implemented on a state-by-state basis rather than nationally by the federal government? If so, that seems like a trivial quibble with Obama’s plan in that little would change from the end insurance/health care user.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • davo

    What are the differences between Obamacare and Romneycare?

    • Rob

      Why don’t you take a little time and educate yourself? Not that being ignorant on a topic has ever stopped you from weighting in on it.

    • donwalk

      Here’s a start, but things are changing fast and new, hidden information in Obamacare is being discovered on a daily basis.
      1. Romneycare: Does not regulate HC Industry
      ObamaCare: Regulates entire HC Industry
      2. Romneycare: Did not raise taxes
      ObamaCare: Increased taxes at a minimum over 500 billion
      3. RomneyCare: Did not cut Medicare
      Obamacare: Cuts Medicare
      4. RomneyCare: Didn’t affect Medicaid
      ObamaCare: Gives Medicaid to non-poor
      5. RomneyCare: Expands HC Individual tax incentive
      ObamaCare: No individual HC tax deduction
      6. Romneycare: Bill had bi-partisan support
      ObamaCare: Bill had no bi-partisan support
      7. Romneycare: Enforcement by Mass. Health
      ObamaCare: Enforcement by IRS
      8. Romneycare: 1.8% of Mass still uninsured
      ObamaCare: 16.7% of U.S. still uninsured
      9. RomneyCare: 0.2% of Mass. Children uninsured
      ObamaCare: 11% of U.S. children still uninsured
      10. RomneyCare: Net cost of reform < 2% budget
      ObamaCare: 615 billion or more in increased costs over ten years

      • JVC

        Romney care changed the tax names to FEES….we had tons of new fees in Massachusetts. Obama is not cutting Medicare check your resources. Romney started HC in Massachusetts and don’t be fooled he will keep it. Wrong again ALL CHILDREN are insured here in Massachusetts no matter what. When my husband was layed off my daughter had total free insurance. So please stick to the facts you have no idea what you are talking about.

        • donwalk

          The numbers used in this article came from the C.B.O., so maybe you should notify the “Congressional Budget Office” also. National review, August 16, 2012 by James C. Capretta
          A fair reading of the facts shows that the Romney-Ryan campaign has every reason to believe that they can put the Obama-Biden ticket on the defensive over Medicare. The most salient fact is that, to pass Obamacare, the president cut Medicare by more than $700 billion over the coming decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). And these cuts are of the worst kind. They are arbitrary and across the board. They reduce reimbursement rates for all who provide services to Medicare patients, regardless of how well or badly they treat their patients. Among the cuts is a $156 billion reduction in payments to Medicare Advantage plans over ten years. These cuts will force seniors to pay $3,700 more for their health care by 2017, according to a study co-authored with Robert Book. The Medicare trustees project that the cuts will drive some 4 million seniors out of Medicare Advantage plans between 2012 and 2018. Further, the Medicare cuts in Obamacare would slash payment rates for hospitals, so much so that the chief actuary of the program has warned repeatedly that the cuts will jeopardize access to care for seniors. He has estimated that if the cuts go into effect, 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes will have to stop taking Medicare patients to avoid the large financial losses that result from getting paid at Medicare rates. By 2030, some 25 percent of these institutions would need to drop out of the Medicare program. Moreover, as Charles Blahous has pointed out, the Medicare cuts in Obamacare aren’t used exclusively to replenish the trust funds that pay Medicare benefits. Instead, they are used to pay for a massive expansion in entitlement spending. To put it in slightly more political terms, President Obama has raided Medicare for $700 billion to pay for his government takeover of American health care.

          Subject: [ndsayanything] Re: Mitt Romney Claims Romneycare Is “ Working Pretty Well”

          • realitybasedbob

            …Paul Ryan’s budget relies on the same $700 billion in savings from Medicare that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have been attacking Democrats about.

            Ryan’s plan includes $700 billion in Medicare “cuts,” says Stephanie Cutter

            …Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.

            Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years.

            …Now onto our second question: Does Ryan’s budget keep the reductions in Medicare spending? The short answer is yes.


        • donwalk

          Better add President B.O. to your notification list, based upon this interview with ABC News in 2009.
          From ABC News in 2009:
          TAPPER: “One of the concerns about health care and how you pay for it — one third of the funding comes from cuts to Medicare.” BARACK OBAMA: “Right.”
          TAPPER: “A lot of times, as you know, what happens in Congress is somebody will do something bold and then Congress, close to election season, will undo it.” OBAMA: “Right.”
          TAPPER: “You saw that with the ‘doc fix’.”
          OBAMA: “Right.”
          TAPPER: “Are you willing to pledge that whatever cuts in Medicare are being made to fund health insurance, one third of it, that you will veto anything that tries to undo that?” OBAMA: “Yes. I actually have said that it is important for us to make sure this thing is deficit neutral, without tricks. I said I wouldn’t sign a bill that didn’t meet that criteria.” Here we have Obama nonchalantly confirming that his unaffordable and unpopular healthcare transformation relied on hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts. He wasn’t slashing $700 Billion out of (current, not future) Medicare to help that program remain solvent, mind you; he was, er, “re-allocating” that money to help construct a brand new entitlement scheme. The purpose of this eye-popping transfer of dollars, he says, was to ensure that Obamacare would not add a dime to the deficit. In the clip, he affirms that he would have vetoed any bill that added to the deficit, and pledged to bend the overall healthcare cost curve down.

          Subject: [ndsayanything] Re: Mitt Romney Claims Romneycare Is “ Working Pretty Well”

        • donwalk

          Whoops! You need to tell Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, as well as the Associated Press that nothing was cut? Stop reciting DNC talking points and live in the real world.
          12 Aug 2012,
          This morning, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter appeared on Face The Nation, where she discussed Obamacare’s $700 billion cuts to Medicare. She touted those cuts as an “achievement”: 13 Aug 2012,
          The Obama campaign went after Congressman Paul Ryan over the weekend, claiming that he wanted to push old people off of cliffs by gutting their Medicare. The problem with that false narrative comes by way of Cutter Shambles, the Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama’s reelection effort: Cutter demonstrates a rare bit of honesty here: President Obama did gut Medicare with his health care law. It was part of the fuzzy math employed to make Obamacare look less expensive than the real price tag. Sacrificing seniors for headlines. Politifact, of all places, already dismantled Democrats’ scare tactic rhetoric concerning Medicare, labeling their claims that the GOP would have ended it as “false.” In fact, the very attack that Democrats are using now was branded Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” for 2011. 16 Aug 2012,
          By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
          WASHINGTON (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s new promise to restore the Medicare cuts made by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law could backfire if he’s elected.

          Subject: [ndsayanything] Re: Mitt Romney Claims Romneycare Is “ Working Pretty Well”

    • Jamer Morrow

      Somehow local theft is better. People that live by you have a right to your money but people that live far away don’t. Duh.

    • robert108

      The biggest difference between the two is choice. obamacaretax, being federal, has no choice, while you can always leave MA if you don’t like that system.
      IMO, obamacaretax is designed to replace all healthcare choices in the country with a single payer system that is totalitarian. No one can exist, legally, outside that system.

  • flamemeister

    What is saving Romney’s sorry ass on this one is that the Democrats cannot promote ObamaCare as a a winning issue. Romney: STFU on RomneyCare! Whether it works or not on the state level vs. the federal level, and why, is just going to confuse most voters.

  • Jamer Morrow

    Do people have a right to others money for health care? The answer is no. Theft is theft. I don’t care if it is a local thief or one that lives far away. Both of them are thieves.

  • Lynn Bergman

    The irony of Romneycare is that a percentage of Obamacare lovers will vote for Romney in hopes of turning around the economy…without fearing major chanages to Obamacare. And the scary thing about Romneycare is…they may be right…Romney may not have the backbone to lead the repeal of Obamacare.
    If Romney wins…and fails to lead the repeal of Obamacare… Republicans will have hell to pay in 2014.

  • JVC

    I live in Massachusetts. Romneycare is working. I have a pre existing condition that costs almost $4,000.00 per month for my treatments. My insurance company pays for it. All I have to pay out of pocket is 20.00 co payment. However I will not vote for Romney since all he has done since being Governor here is lie continuously. You can’t trust a word he says. He will not get rid of it when and if he makes it into office (Massachusetts not voting for him by the way) he will not change or get rid of what he started. In the beginning he made the comment he would love to see his Healthcare go National. You can hear him say it on youtube. Don’t be fooled America. He will be tripping over his Pinocchio nose very soon.