For the past year, Mitt Romney has been trying to distance himself from his record on health care, most notably from his signature health-care-reform law in Massachusetts, commonly referred to as “Romneycare.”
Although the former Massachusetts governor would prefer to deny it, Romneycare shares many characteristics with Obamacare, the president’s unpopular overhaul of the national health-care system, and over the past five years, Romneycare has proven to have many of the same fatal design flaws that Obamacare has.
The Massachusetts Health Connector Plan (aka Romneycare), like Obamacare, had the stated goal of addressing escalating health-care costs and reducing the number of uninsured people. Now, after five years in existence, the Romney health-care overhaul has failed to bring costs down, and it has also failed to increase the number of people with private insurance. As a direct consequence of Romneycare’s intrusive meddling in the private health-insurance market, health-care costs have skyrocketed in the state. Massachusetts has the highest average health-care premiums in the nation, with per capita spending 27 percent higher than the national average. Overall health-care costs in the state continue to rise at an average rate of 8 percent annually. And of the approximate 383,000 newly insured Massachusetts residents, the vast majority are enrolled in a state-run entitlement program. A shortage of providers, combined with increased demand, is increasing waiting times to see a physician. As recently as 2009, 56 percent of internal-medicine doctors no longer accepted new patients in Massachusetts.
If all of that sounds familiar, it could be because Romneycare is the template for Obamacare. President Obama enjoys pointing that out. The criticisms that conservatives have expressed about Obamacare are applicable to Romneycare.
The similarities between the two health-care overhauls are striking. Romneycare and Obamacare both feature individual and employer mandates. They both include an insurance exchange with taxpayer-funded subsidies. Both health-care-reform laws dramatically expand Medicaid — increasing the burden on taxpayers and the states. And, not surprisingly, both laws increase the role of government in the health-care industry by piling on new regulations.
The Romneycare individual mandate is essentially the same as the Obamacare individual mandate. Both reform laws rely on the government’s ability to tax and fine individuals to coerce them into purchasing “approved” health-insurance plans. Because of his support for an individual mandate, Mitt Romney finds himself at odds with the governors and attorneys general of 27 states, who are currently suing the federal government on the grounds that it is unconstitutional for the government to force people to purchase anything, even health insurance.
Romney’s insistence that Romneycare is somehow different from Obamacare, simply because it was implemented at the state level rather than the federal level, is misleading. Romneycare, like Obamacare, is a massive intrusion of government into the private sphere. Neither of these government-run, top-down approaches to health care is the right prescription for America.
Romneycare helps to illustrate a fundamental difference between Mitt Romney’s candidacy and my own. My policy initiatives would champion the free market and enhance individuals’ decision-making authority; Romney’s policies have significantly enhanced state bureaucrats’ authority. My ideas are focused on patient-centered solutions and stronger competition to help drive costs down and maximize patients’ ability to choose the health-care policies that best fit their own needs.
These differences between Romney’s record and my proposals reflect something far more important than our differing views on a simple policy matter; they reveal a deeper philosophical difference about the proper role of government. Whereas Governor Romney used his executive authority in Massachusetts to work to expand the government’s role, I believe government should be limited in both its scope and its size. And I believe my views of a constitutionally limited government better mirror the values of New Hampshire and the vision of America.
— Rick Santorum, a former representative and senator from Pennsylvania, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.