On April 12, 2006, MA Gov. Mitt Romney signed Commonwealth Care into law. The universal health care initiative would become Gov. Romney’s signature policy achievement. Five years on, how is that achievement holding up?
Not very well, actually.
Commonwealth Care was supposed to do two things: Increase access to health care, and bring down the cost of health care. It has increased access if you define that as more people paying for health insurance, but costs have gone up dramatically, and wait times to see a medical professional have gone up as well. Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner took at a look at RomneyCare during the ObamaCare debate, and found that:
- Although the state has reduced the number of residents without health insurance, 200,000 people remain uninsured. Moreover, the increase in the number of insured is primarily due to the state’s generous subsidies, not the celebrated individual mandate.
- Health care costs continue to rise much faster than the national average. Since 2006, total state health care spending has increased by 28 percent. Insurance premiums have increased by 8–10 percent per year, nearly double the national average.
- New regulations and bureaucracy are limiting consumer choice and adding to health care costs.
- Program costs have skyrocketed. Despite tax increases, the program faces huge deficits. The state is considering caps on insurance premiums, cuts in reimbursements to providers, and even the possibility of a “global budget” on health care spending—with its attendant rationing.
- A shortage of providers, combined with increased demand, is increasing waiting times to see a physician.
That’s not much of an achievement. Worse still, RomneyCare provided the blueprint for much of what became ObamaCare, which is the most reviled of all of President Obama’s domestic policies among Republican voters — the very voters Romney needs to win the GOP primary. In particular, ObamaCare’s controversial individual mandate is a central feature of Commonwealth Care. President Obama even directly thanked Romney for passing RomneyCare and giving the Democrats some ideas to nationalize.
And following the bad policy, there’s the problematic photo-op.
Mitt Romney brings some firepower to the 2012 fight. He can self-finance and has a talent for raising money. His political organization was probably the most professional on the GOP side in 2008. His record as a businessman and on the US Olympic committee showed that he can take on massive challenges and fix them. So far, though, he hasn’t figured out how to deal with RomneyCare, which was supposed to be his greatest policy victory but after five years has turned out to be his greatest political liability.