Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Mitt Romney's Health Plan--A Foot in Each Canoe

Up in Wisconsin's Northwoods, camp counselors play a game with the kids in which they put two canoes together in the lake and have the kids try to stand up with one foot in each canoe. As you can imagine it's an almost impossible balancing act.

I was reminded of that last week sitting by our lake reading reports of Mitt Romney’s health plan proposals.

Romney has two canoes to deal with:
  • He signed, and participated in the development of, the Massachusetts health plan law that has become the basis for the health plans proposed by Democrats John Edwards and Barack Obama—and likely the plan Hillary Clinton will offer.
  • He is running as a conservative where there is a virtual requirement to offer market-based health reform ideas and to stay away from big government plans—which about all conservatives consider the Massachusetts plan to be.
Romney clearly has a foot in each canoe:
  • He has referred to the Mass health plan as an “example of how he used conservative principles to provide affordable health insurance to all state residents."
  • Recently in New Hampshire, Romney charged, "Barack Obama [whose health plan looks like the Mass plan Romney signed] said we're going to have the government take over health care. He at least had the integrity to say he wants to raise your taxes." He added, "The right answer is not a government takeover, it's not socialized medicine. It's not Hillarycare." Later, Romney said, "I don't want the guys who ran the [Hurricane] Katrina cleanup running my health care system."
Romney is trying to position himself as the darling of the conservative wing of the Republican Party—a smart thing to do if you want the nomination.

So, it comes as no surprise that his health plan principles come right out of the conservative Republican playbook on health care:
  • Changing the tax code so more people are able to buy health insurance in the individual market.
  • Promoting health savings accounts (HSAs) and high deductible health plans.
  • Giving states more flexibility in how they use federal health care funds.
  • Encouraging states to reform their state health insurance regulatory oversight to reduce the cost of insurance.
Romney seems to be trying to rationalize the two canoes by saying what worked in my state isn’t what I would do in yours, “A one-size-fits-all national health care system is bound to fail. It ignores the sharp difference between states, and it relies on Washington bureaucracy to manage. I don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system.”

But the same day he announced his health care plan, Romney spokesmen Eric Fehrnstrom, had this to say, “What’s important about the Massachusetts health care law is that it’s working, and Mitt Romney got it done by reaching across the political isle. We have fewer uninsured, the cost of policies is coming down, and more and more people are taking personal responsibility for their own care.”

So, if Romney is elected and has a Democratic Congress unwilling to enact a conservative Republican health program, will Romney again do the same deal he did with Massachusetts Democrats? I am sure that Senators Obama and Clinton would vote for it.

Watching someone with a foot in each canoe try to maintain his balance is always a hoot!

You can also see the complete Romney health care PowerPoint.
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