OVERVIEW: After one year, Commonwealth Care (aka RomneyCare) in Massachusetts is imploding even earlier than I predicted, due to “spiraling costs.” Punitive fines of $912 – $1,824 are to be imposed on those who would rather not participate in the so-called “grand experiment.”
Let me be the first to say it: Itâ€™s becoming painfully clear (link requires subscription) that Mitt RomneyCare in Massachusetts is blowing up, and will get nothing but worse between now and November 2008. If heâ€™s the nominee, heâ€™ll be playing the same game Michael Dukakis played unsuccessfully in 1988 â€” covering up the Bay Stateâ€™s disastrous financial situation. Except this time, the other party controls the Governorâ€™s Office. Deval Patrick will gleefully point to the mess he has inherited, and will then tout HillaryCare II as the â€œbetter, more comprehensiveâ€ solution.
For this reason alone, I believe that Mitt Romney should NOT be the GOP nominee. Period.
Well, I was wrong about how long it would take for RomneyCare’s financial problems to become visible. The big trouble is coming much earlier than I thought:
Massachusetts is facing a daunting goal as it enters the second year of its grand experiment of extending health care coverage to nearly all citizens – reining in spiraling costs that could threaten the landmark law.
“The sustainability of reform depends on our ability to restrain or constrain or moderate the increase in costs,” said Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Health Insurance Connector Authority, which oversees the health care law.
“That’s going to take a huge concerted effort by all players in the health care area,” he added.
For Massachusetts residents deemed able to afford health care, but refuse, that means facing new monthly fines that could total as much as $912 for individuals and $1,824 for couples by the end of the year.
That’s a steep increase. Those who failed to get insured in 2007, the first year of the law, faced the loss of their personal exemption on their tax returns, worth $219.
But pressuring individuals to get insured is only part of a multi-pronged attempt to cut health care costs to ensure the viability of the law, which has thrust Massachusetts into the center of the national health care debate.
The state’s insurers, hospitals and lawmakers are also finding themselves under pressure to slow spending, or come up with new revenue.
In case you missed it: That’s MONTHLY fines that could total $912 for individuals and $1,824 for couples in a year’s time. Apparently to be paid M-O-N-T-H-L-Y (i.e., $76 – $152 per month, just to be sure there’s no misunderstanding)?
The fact that the news is coming out now is quite fortuitous, given that some of the talking heads and Frank Luntz’s focus group (containing, in my opinion, some possibly potted Romney plants; UPDATE – Well, Jeepers FReepers, imagine that [HT Michelle Malkin]) think that Unfit Mitt did well in the debate last night.
Anyone familiar with what happens in government-run health systems will recognize the last excerpted paragraph as code for “rationing of care.”
And isn’t it amazing how sympathetic and accommodating AP writer Steve LeBlanc is to the whole situation? “Grand experiment?” If private insurers are so evil, why was the government the entity that came up with the “novel” idea of charging people confiscatory amounts for not becoming customers?
What in the world has the so-called Cradle of Liberty wrought? Read this:
State officials say they will get the money â€” this year by denying individuals the personal tax exemption, or, next year, by deducting the penalty from tax refunds or sending out bills. A new statewide database will track who has health insurance and who doesn’t, they say.
What happens if people move out rather than pay the fines? Will Uncle Mitt’s successors cross state lines and come after them? Will they stop people from closing on sales of their Massachusetts homes unless they pay the fines, which are in reality (since they involve line items on the tax forms) punitive taxes? Will they make renters forego their security deposits? Laugh now; at the rate things are going, these measures might be the mild ones in a few years.
And, finally, how is it possible that people who call themselves “conservatives” want to elect the guy who foisted all of this on the Bay State? Come this summer, even those who are foolish enough to ignore Romney’s complete sellout on cultural matters when he was governor will be sick themselves — with a chronic case of economic buyer’s remorse.
UPDATE: Cato –
The cost of the program has exploded; it’s running $150 million above the original projection for this year alone.
Nor has the reform succeeded in holding down other costs. Insurance premiums in the state are expected to rise 10 to 12 percent next year – double the national average. While many factors surely contribute to that jump, one reason is that the new bureaucracy that the legislation created – called “the Connector” – has been adding new regulations and mandates.
UPDATE 2: Pretty obvious, based on the content of this post — Mitt says “I like mandates.”
UPDATE 3: Caught on tape, at GreenMountainPolitics1 — Romney staffers takes away McCain signs and replace them with their own. No kidding.
UPDATE 4: Can’t fail to note this from Bob Novak –
Published reports that Fred Thompson soon will withdraw from the Republican presidential contest and endorse Sen. John McCain have been traced in part to Mitt Romney’s campaign, trying to stir up strife between McCain and Thompson.
The willingness to engage in a tactic like this makes Team Romney’s claims not to have had anything to do with the anti-Mormon push polling last month “ring” that even more hollow.
UPDATE 5: Romney 2002 v. Romney 2008, Item 758 — He said McCain stood for reform and change, before he said that he (McCain) isn’t.
UPDATE 6: Jonathan Adler at the Corner links over. Mr. Adler, I don’t know how you can write almost 200 words without mentioning the ridiculous fines.
UPDATE 7, Jan. 9: From Viking Pundit, who is based in western Massachusetts –
Just today I received my Massachusetts Resident Income Tax Forms and emblazoned on the front cover is “This year Massachusetts requires that you file the new health care schedule.” Or else, citizen, or else.