I get the distinct feeling that in the aftermath of Obamacare debacle, we’re going to hear a lot of people say, “Well this is just ‘Romneycare’ writ large.” Here’s the Governor on that very issue in Fox News (warning, long excerpt):
WALLACE: Governor, I want to pick up on this, because we got a lot of e-mail from conservatives this week who said that you are the wrong man to be making that point, and they pointed specifically to your role in passing health care reform in Massachusetts. In your book, you criticize actions by your successor, Governor Patrick, but then you write this, and let’s put it up on the screen. “Even with these added costs and policy choices by the legislature and the new governor, the plan is working.”
But let’s look at the record. According to the Wall Street Journal, average Massachusetts health care premiums are now the highest in the nation. Per capita health spending is 27 percent higher than the national average. And fiscal 2010 costs are $47 million over budget. Is that your idea of, quote, “the plan is working?”
ROMNEY: Well, let’s go back and look at the facts. First of all, Massachusetts had very high health care costs before our plan was put in place. And what our plan did was focus on getting everybody insured. And that it’s done. Some 98 percent of Massachusetts individuals have insurance.
And since the plan has been put in place, premiums for those individuals have risen at 5 percent per year, pretty substantially below the kind of numbers you’re seeing across the nation.
And I think you could also recognize that we have work to do, which is to bring down the cost of health care throughout the country. That’s a big issue, something we tackled for the people who were uninsured in the past because we got premiums down for them. But getting premiums down for the entire population is now the next responsibility.
Let me tell you, there’s a big difference between what we did and what President Obama is doing. 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.
This is a federalist nation. States should be able to solve their own problems. We didn’t raise taxes. We did not at the same time cut Medicare and expect our seniors to have to pay for all this. We didn’t do what President Obama’s doing, which is putting controls on our system of premiums for private insurance companies.
And let me just tell you, I think our plan is working well. And perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that it is saving lives. It is the ultimate pro-life effort, if you will, because people who otherwise could have lost their lives are now able to get the kind of care that they deserve.
WALLACE: But, Governor, let’s look at the plan that you signed into law in Massachusetts in 2006. You have an individual mandate. You have an employer mandate. You have subsidiaries for some of the uninsured. You set minimum insurance coverage standards.
Again, a lot of e-mails I got from conservatives say — make this point. They say it sure sounds an awful lot like “Obama-care.”
ROMNEY: A big difference — a state plan versus a federal plan. No new taxes, unlike his plan. No cut in Medicare, unlike his plan. And no controls over insurance premiums, price controls, cost controls like his plan. So very, very different in that regard.
It’s the difference between a racehorse and a donkey, if you will, so — they both have four legs, but one works pretty well and the other’s not working and would not work at all.
And a couple other things. The facts of those features are not exactly right. The plan this year, for instance, is $80 million below budget. It’s coming in very much within the range that was forecast when the legislature and I put this together.
And there were some features that I didn’t like that the legislature put in place, for instance — the provision that said that insurance companies are told what kinds of coverages have to be included. That’s something I vetoed. They overrode it. That’s the nature of a — of a bipartisan process.
And let me tell you one thing I’m also proud of. We were able to do in our state something which is not being done in Washington. And that is we worked on a bipartisan basis. Republicans and Democrats came together. And we worked out something which we thought was pretty good and, on my view, a step forward.
But you know, the states were designed to be the laboratories of democracy. This is an example where people can take a good look, see what they like, what they don’t like.
But the idea of taking what we did and applying something entirely different to the entire nation is not the right approach. And I think that’s why President Obama is seeing the kind of resistance that he’s experiencing.
WALLACE: Yeah, but I want to pursue this, if I may, Governor. The libertarian, and certainly the somewhat conservative, Cato Institute says that your plan in Massachusetts is a mirror — a mirror plan of “Obama- care.” They say it’s quite right you didn’t raise taxes, but they say, in fact, you got millions of dollars from the federal government to finance your plan.
ROMNEY: Well, what we have is a plan which is paid for half by the state and half by the federal government. The cost is about 1.5 percent of the state budget.
And the federal dollars we received were federal dollars that we were entitled to through a program called DISH, the disproportionate share program. Federal funds had been applied to Massachusetts, just like to other states, for the care of those that were uninsured.
We said, “Let’s take that money that’s been going to hospitals that are caring for the uninsured and instead help people buy their own private insurance.” No government insurance. No government option, if you will.
WALLACE: Well, there’s no…
ROMNEY: Private health insurance.
WALLACE: … government option in the Obama plan anymore, either.
ROMNEY: No, that’s right. That’s right. And so what we did was entirely different than what President Obama is proposing on the bases that I’m taking you through.
And again, I like the idea of letting states solve their problems one by one and find the best alternative. I think we’re the first state in the — in the nation that found a way to get everybody insured without having to raise taxes.
We do insist that people buy insurance or pay their own way. And if they — if they don’t buy insurance, they’ll find that their taxes are higher. The employer mandate is pretty soft. An employer pays — I think it’s $285 a year if an employee doesn’t have insurance that they bought on their own or if they bought through the company.
So it’s a plan that has pros and cons. 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.
One of the members of my administration told me just two days ago that after she left our administration, she was diagnosed with brain cancer and that had she not been in Massachusetts, she would not been able to receive the insurance that she needed and the specialist care that has now saved her life. That’s the biggest reason for helping people get insurance.