July 29, 2008

Romney Defends RomneyCare Crackup; WSJ Strikes Back

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:31 pm

Note: To get to the four-part “Case Against Mitt Romney” series, go here.

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Earlier this month, slipping past my radar, Mitt Romney had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (may require subscription) defending his handiwork.

Now that I have read it, it’s clear that he was shamelessly begging for more money from the feds so that Massachusetts’s CommonwealthCare aka RomneyCare wouldn’t sink of its own weight:

The Bush administration will decide in the coming days whether to continue to facilitate this experiment by accepting the state’s financial contribution as qualifying for federal matching funds as in the past. If the federal government refuses or reduces federal participation, the state could be forced to curtail the program.

Well, since the Bay State is spending more (and, I suspect a lot more per capita than other states), what Romney is really saying that the rest of us need to pay more too.

Thanks, Mitt (/sarc). I don’t know whether the Bush admin has made its decision.

Today, the Wall Street Journal called BS on this:

Romney, who should know better, took to these pages recently to proclaim, “Health-care reform is working in Massachusetts.” Shortly after Mr. Romney’s self-tribute, Governor Deval Patrick wheeled out a new $129 million tax plan to make up for this year’s health spending shortfalls. Yet partisans are cheering the cost overruns as a sign of success.

….. The ominous news is that only about 18,000 people — or 5% of the newly insured — have taken advantage of the “connector,” which was supposed to be the plan’s free-market innovation linking individuals to private insurers.

Most of this growth in coverage has instead come via a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care. This provides subsidized insurance to those under 300% of the poverty level, or about $63,000 for a family of four. About 174,000 have joined this low- or no-cost program, a trend that is likely to speed up.

As this public option gets overwhelmed, budget gaskets are blowing everywhere. Mr. Patrick had already bumped up this year’s spending to $869 million, $144 million over its original estimate. Liberals duly noted that these tax hikes are necessary because enrollment in Commonwealth Care is much higher than anticipated. But of course more people will have coverage if government gives it to them for free. The problem is that someone has to pay for it.

Thus the extra tab of $129 million, which may need to go higher because it relies on uncertain federal funds from Medicaid. For now, Mr. Patrick wants one-time (yeah, right) charges of $33 million on insurers and $28 million on providers, plus some shuffling of state funds. The balance comes from an estimated $33 million boost in the state’s “pay or play” tax: If businesses don’t offer “fair and reasonable” insurance to their employees, they get hit.

This is a textbook example of how business taxes evolve into “pay or pay,” the first recourse of state-funded health systems.

The fact that so many talkers and pundits continue to characterize Romney as an economic conservative is an insult to free-market believers’ intelligence.

I’m also seeing two other important things at work here:

  • First, Romney despite his weekly (or is it daily?) “Who, me?” responses to questions from sycophants like Sean Hannity, has been going after McCain’s Veep slot relentlessly behind the scenes.
  • Second, I believe the Journal is letting John McCain know in no uncertain terms that it believes Romney to be a completely unacceptable Veep candidate.

Most don’t remember, but in 1996 there was actually serious talk of making George Voinovich Bob Dole’s running mate. In a scathing editorial, the Journal pointed to how under Voinovich Ohio’s state spending was rising unnecessarily, taxes were being raised, and Voinovich was acting like a spoiled kid when he couldn’t get his way.

That was the end of serious consideration of Voinovich. Hopefully, the Journal’s editorial today will have the same impact.

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2 Comments

  1. Yet partisans are cheering the cost overruns as a sign of success

    Why of course they are! They put the foot in the door for socialized medicine and eventual take over of the entire medical industry. They are unilaterally demanding all the health care providers and insurance companies pay on some of the deficit spending and the rest to be funded by some kind of tax hike. The pretense of coverage for everyone is now gone, it’s now a grab for running the system from top to bottom. They have lots to cheer about from their perspective given that without Romney, they would never have gotten this far to their goals.

    People so quickly forget that libs are the masters of obfuscation, the initial issue presented was covering people who don’t have insurance because the State was paying for indigent care, duh!, the State is still paying for indigent care! a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care And now they have everyone on the hook to SHARE more in that cost. Now ask yourself what’s the difference between Medicaid and Commonwealth Care other than the name and so called objective? Why go through all the motions and more regulations only to accomplish the exact same thing? The lib politicians are now attempting to justify why even more money should be spent on a government program.

    Let’s ask the more revealing questions here, Where is all this money going now that it didn’t go there before? Were people any more sick now than before? What exactly is costing more money in the health care system now than before RomneyCare existed that 129 million more dollars are needed? You see under the old system, medical care providers either wrote off unpaid/defaulted bills by the uninsured or got reimbursed by the State for indigent care. Is everyone claiming the needed level of reimbursement is now substancially greater now?

    Comment by dscott — July 30, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  2. The ominous news is that only about 18,000 people — or 5% of the newly insured — have taken advantage of the “connector,” which was supposed to be the plan’s free-market innovation linking individuals to private insurers.

    If insuring the uninsured was the real issue, why didn’t RomneyCare simply create the “Connector” in the first place and reform the State Insurance Laws to allow pooling of individuals to allow group rates? Why didn’t they simply allow small businesses to aggregate with other businesses of similar type to allow a more affordable rate of larger businesses????

    Comment by dscott — July 30, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

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