Health Care: Romney, Perry, and Huntsman

by Avik Roy

Given that tonight is the night of the first GOP presidential debate featuring the three Republican contenders with gubernatorial experience, I thought I might point Corner readers to some pieces I’ve written this week on health-care reform as it relates to Romney, Perry, and Huntsman. All three candidates pledge to repeal Obamacare, so the question is, with what would each of them replace it?

Romney’s “Believe in America” plan is vague on entitlement reform, praising the Ryan plan as making “important strides” while assuring everyone that “Romney’s own plan will differ.” Unfortunately, he appears to be opposed to Medicare cuts, while at the same time promising to cap federal spending at 20 percent of GDP — a neat trick. Romney is slightly more specific on Medicaid, advocating that the program be converted into block grants for the states. He’s best when discussing the toxicity of federal regulations, promising to impose a cap on new regulatory costs and endorsing a Republican congressional plan requiring legislative approval for any new federal rule with a cost above $100 million.

A recent New York Times editorial cites health-care statistics, misleadingly and selectively, to argue that Rick Perry has a “shocking lack of concern for … Texans who can’t afford health insurance.” I fisk that editorial here. In fact, insurance premiums in Texas have risen more slowly than those elsewhere, and the high proportion of uninsured residents in Texas is attributable to many factors, including the large number of young people and illegal immigrants in the state.

As for Jon Huntsman, his tax-reform plan has profound implications for health care. By eliminating the deduction for employer-sponsored health insurance, Huntsman’s plan would revolutionize the U.S. private insurance market, eliminating the vestige of World War II–era wage controls that does so much to subsidize wasteful health spending and prevent consumers from taking charge of their own health dollars. On the other hand, Huntsman doesn’t even mention entitlement reform in his “Time to Compete” manifesto.

Perry hasn’t had a chance yet to share his proposals for national health-care reform. Romney and Huntsman have had their chances — and mostly declined. Of the two ex-governors, Huntsman’s tax proposal is by far the boldest and most impressive, and I’m interested to see how he defends it tonight.

— Avik Roy is an equity research analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. and a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute, and blogs on health-care policy at The Apothecary. You can follow him on Twitter at @aviksaroy.

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