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Debra J. Saunders
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Why Romneycare Outdoes Obamacare


President Barack Obama keeps trying to give former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney credit for the Affordable Care Act, which tells you how unpopular Obamacare is.

Romney, Obama told the public radio show "Marketplace," "is now pretending like he came up with something different" from Obamacare, which celebrated its second anniversary last week.

Like Obama, Romney's GOP primary rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also are talking as if Romneycare spawned Obamacare, as both plans rely on an individual mandate.

But the philosophies behind the federal plan and the Massachusetts plan are radically different. Romney set out to offer a plan that would address the state's 460,000 uninsured residents, without putting undue burdens on state employers. Obamacare, conversely, is mandate heaven. Its expanding array of benefits effectively has created a new tax on employers. Already, for example, health plans must offer coverage for employees' adult children up to age 26. Obamacare provisions to end copayments for "preventive care," including birth control, may seem like savings for workers, but someone has to pay for all that free stuff.

"Free preventive services is a misnomer," the Boston-based Pioneer Institute's director of health care policy, Josh Archambault, told me. "It will often be passed on through higher premiums."

This goes to the fundamental problem with Obamacare. As a candidate, Obama promised to sign a universal health care package that would "cut the cost of a typical family's premium by up to $2,500 a year." But in larding the health care menu, Obamacare gives consumers little to no reason to contain costs.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that employer-sponsored health care costs rose 9 percent last year, and part of the credit went to the Affordable Care Act's mandates, which will not take full effect until 2014.

Romneycare also included minimum coverage requirements to protect consumers.

But the Romney model promoted flexibility, individual choice and responsibility. Instead of giving away benefits, Romney concentrated on providing medical care in a cost-sharing framework to encourage families to make smart choices, healthwise and moneywise.

As for the individual mandate, Romney called it "the ultimate conservative idea," Boston Globe scribes Michael Kranish and Scott Helman reported in their book, "The Real Romney." Romney believed that the mandate told people, "Don't look to government to take care of them if they can afford to take care of themselves."

In drafting the Affordable Care Act as it is, Obama has told people they cannot afford to take care of themselves. Period.

Archambault uses an apt analogy to compare Romneycare with Obamacare. "Massachusetts is a car. It's smaller. It's easy to fix. Problems can still arise, but it's much easier to steer."

Obamacare, he continued, "is like a train. It still has wheels and an engine like the car, but it's much bigger. It runs through all areas of health care, and it's inflexible. Once the track is laid, it's very difficult to change the direction."

Email Debra J. Saunders at To find out more about Debra J. Saunders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



1 Comments | Post Comment
Oh please, Saunders, you know better.

Obamacare is just the next step in getting civilized people to face up to managing healthcare and its costs instead of just dealing with them as they arise in a management-by-crisis mode. Massachusetts was the stepping stone, and everybody with a brain knows it.

Underlying this is the fact that we all pay either way, and we pay a lot more and get far inferior care for it unless we take this approach or, god forbid, the approach of full government control, which of course would cause the right wing to declare absolute jihad.

If we rely on the ER and all the other ways we have to essentially hand out free medical care, we all as a society pay through the nose with our taxes for the most expensive way possible to deliver that care, as deficient as it is. But we don't have to admit that, because no one is tallying the bill. Are you, Saunders?

Put it all into a comprehensive system that at least represents an attempt to deal with the issue, and all of a sudden we are seeing the hidden bill for what we have been paying all along, and it is indeed a shocker--the kind of stuff politicians who pray on ignorance are having a field day with.

What Romney can do if he wants ever to even approach finding his spine and standing up to the job of leadership, is embrace what he did in Massachusetts instead of running away from it. It is his shadow--it will always follow him, for better or for worse. Why in the world are you trying to give him more cover to run away from himself? You of all commentators.

The irony is that what he did there, working closely with the Democrats to find common ground and start to fix a problem that everyone else was trying to ignore, was a true act of leadership. It was a crucial first step, in a laboratory state that has served as a model for the nation to emulate.

Go ahead and have fun with car analogies and other silly fig leaves to hide it, but Romney dealt a mortal blow in Massachusetts to the forces of right wing denial, and the president followed him. Too bad they can't get together.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:22 PM
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