The Corner

The High Cost of MassCare

In a recent profile of Mitt Romney for NR, I argued that the former governor should quit arguing that Massachusetts’s health-care plan had, in his words, “accomplished its objectives at a relatively modest cost.” I wrote: “The cost to the state government has indeed been modest. But the plan was designed so that the state picks up only a fifth of the costs the plan generates, with the federal government and the private sector absorbing the rest. Premiums are growing much faster than in the rest of the nation. Waiting times are up, too, which imposes costs on people. The plan is losing popularity in Massachusetts.”

Tim Fernholz, writing at the American Prospect blog, calls my criticisms “nebulous.” He argues that “Massachusetts is set to do some pretty revolutionary cost-curve-bending.” Follow the link: All that has happened is that a commission has recommended that the state take some curve-bending steps. Big deal. He notes that “the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says the plan isn’t bankrupting the state.” Didn’t I say that “the plan was designed so that the state picks up only a fifth of the costs the plan generates”? Finally, he says that “the plan isn’t losing much popularity,” citing a poll in which 59 percent of state residents who had heard of the plan supported it. That’s nice. But it’s a ten-point drop from a year earlier, which amply justifies my comment. (It may also be relevant that we are talking about a state that is in important respects to the country’s left.) Read carefully, Fernholz’s post doesn’t actually dispute any point I made.

Fernholz concludes that when Republicans applaud Masscare will be “when you can take the GOP seriously again.” The Republican party has many, many problems to address, but getting Prospect readers (or writers) to refrain from condescending to it ought to rank pretty low on the priority list.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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