Once upon a time in 2004, Republican Governor Mitt Romney crossed party lines to launch a public health care plan, which then suffered huge cost overruns and became what even liberals largely concede to be a failure. Every once in a while conservatives will cite Massachusetts as a case against national health care, or liberals will offer a tepid defense of the state, but the disaster of Massachusetts remains just about the only thing everyone agrees on. Except for a certain Republican presidential hopeful, Mr. Mitt Romney, who passionately advocated today for his state plan to go national.
Just how much of a failure was Massachusetts? Sally C. Pipes wrote a piece yesterday for Forbes called "MAss Disaster" that indicted Romney, his state reforms, and any attempts to make them into a national system: "The big lie in Massachusetts was that costs and taxes would not increase," she said. "If congressional Democrats get their way, every American can look forward to a similar system of capitation in the future."
Liberals agree. On a recent New Yorker podcast on health care, Dorthy Wickendon condemned the state, saying, "Costs are completely out of control and a state commission recently recommended radically restructuring the way doctors and hospitals are paid." Jerome Groopman agreed, calling the system "smoke and mirrors" and saying, "The state is basically bankrupt and the hospitals are not able, in many instances, to care for people who are coming in with state-based coverage." Even The New Republic, which pushes strongly for health care reform, has called the idea of Massachusetts as a failure "consensus."
But such things do not deter Mitt Romney. "There's a better way," he wrote in this morning's USA Today, referring to the current discussions on the issue. "And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it. No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts." Romney details his health care reforms as governors, focusing on cost management.
He concludes: "Health care is many times bigger than all the companies in the Dow Jones combined. And the president is rushing changes that dwarf what any business I know has faced. Republicans are not the party of 'no' when it comes to health care reform. This Republican is proud to be the first governor to insure all his state's citizens."