Health care: The main reason it won’t be Romney in 2012

Grace-Marie Turner has a devastating piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about the failure of the health-reform plan that Mitt Romney installed while governor of Massachusetts. Describing health reform as “the defining political battle of our time,” Turner goes on to enumerate the ways in which RomneyCare has failed.

First, Turner identifies several key similarities between RomneyCare and ObamaCare:

Both have an individual mandate requiring most residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Most businesses are required to participate or pay a fine. Both rely on government-designed purchasing exchanges that also provide a platform to control private health insurance. Many of the uninsured are covered through Medicaid expansion and others receive subsidies for highly-prescriptive policies. And the apparatus requires a plethora of new government boards and agencies.

The emphasis in Massachusetts has been on subsidizing coverage for the uninsured, to the point that “[m]ore than half of the 408,000 newly insured residents pay nothing,” Turner writes.

Yet, 3 percent of Massachusetts residents remain uninsured — close to the proportion of uninsured Americans once you take out illegal immigrants, people who qualify for Medicaid but haven’t enrolled, and those who can afford health insurance but choose not to purchase it. That 3 percent, Turner writes, comprises about 140,000 people who “were either assessed a penalty or exempted from the individual mandate because the state deemed they couldn’t afford the premiums.”

Note the emphasized text. Even though more than 200,000 additional Massachusetts residents receive completely subsidized health insurance — “additional” because this group doesn’t include Medicaid recipients — there is still a group of people who can’t afford health insurance there. Assuming that subsidies begin in lower income brackets and move upward, it’s likely that the point of affordability has just shifted up the income scale.

Why would that happen? Perhaps because expensive mandates to cover certain services remain in place and health costs continue to rise, putting upward pressure on insurers:

One third of state residents polled by Harvard researchers in a study published in “Health Affairs” in 2008 said that their health costs had gone up as a result of the 2006 reforms. A typical family of four today faces total annual health costs of nearly $13,788, the highest in the country. Per capita spending is 27% higher than the national average.

At this point, some readers will say the answer is a single-payer system. But as Massachusetts shows us, extending coverage is not the same thing as extending care.

The Bay State is also suffering from what the Massachusetts Medical Society calls a “critical shortage” of primary-care physicians. As one would expect, expanded insurance has caused an increase in demand for medical services. But there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in the number of doctors. As a result, many patients are insured in name only: They have health coverage but can’t find a doctor.

Fifty-six percent of Massachusetts internal medicine physicians no longer are accepting new patients, according to a 2009 physician work-force study conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society. For new patients who do get an appointment with a primary-care doctor, the average waiting time is 44 days, the Medical Society found.


The difficulties in getting primary care have led to an increasing number of patients who rely on emergency rooms for basic medical services. Emergency room visits jumped 7% between 2005 and 2007. Officials have determined that half of those added ER visits didn’t actually require immediate treatment and could have been dealt with at a doctor’s office—if patients could have found one.

If the states are supposed to serve as policy laboratories, RomneyCare is an experiment we should never replicate on the national level. And as it happens, there is an actual conservative health reform experiment conducted by another potential 2012 hopeful:

One of the challengers Mr. Romney could face in 2012 is Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Mr. Daniels went in a very different direction in tackling the problem of the uninsured. He created a program targeted to lower-income uninsured people who weren’t eligible for Medicaid or employer insurance. Mr. Daniels’s Healthy Indiana program has a fixed budget and relies on shared responsibility between the newly insured and the government in managing health spending.

Democrats may (or may not) pass a health bill as soon as this weekend, but health care will remain an important topic through the 2012 elections because the new programs won’t have kicked in by then, only the new taxes. In theory, a future president and future Congress could still act to change to elements of the reform — particularly if the candidates for those offices run explicitly on a platform of doing so.

None of which bodes well for Mitt Romney.

35 comments Add your comment

the doctor

March 17th, 2010
10:59 am

But it is not Mitts fault, he will tell you it is not Mitts fault! The dem’s make him do it, you know how peer pressure is! It was peer pressure which made Mitt have a pro-choice stand, a pro-gay stand also, he knew the peer pressure would keep him out of office of governor if he didn’t take the stands!

It is peer pressure why Mitt changed and became pro-life, anti-gay when he set his eye on POTUS. The right wing peer pressure won’t give him the time of day if he didn’t.

It’s the peer pressures fault, not Mitts. Bet he told his folks the same thing as a teen, hasn’t changed a bit.

Churchill's MOM

March 17th, 2010
11:06 am

Lat week you said there weren’t enough votes to pass health care.. What do you really think?

Doug NYC

March 17th, 2010
11:20 am

Both and the WSJ author fail to fault the current Gov and legislature for how they have managed the plan since 2007, when Romney left office. He has stated the plan isn’t perfect and needs fixing. Both articles also gloss over pretty quickly, the original proposals Romney had in to address cost, which were later removed or added back in after Romney vetoed them.

To lay the entire fault of Mass Card at Romney’s feet is untruthful and reflects upon the biased and lazt reporting of both Ms. Turner and yourself.


March 17th, 2010
11:20 am

What will the GOP run on? They haven’t done anything, only try to obstruct.


March 17th, 2010
11:36 am

My beef with this Obamacare is that it doesn’t do a thing to reduce health care COSTS. It simply adds to the costs by creating a mega-bureaucracy to handle it, and increases taxes for those who pay at all. Insurers raise rates to cover “costs”. The government doesn’t cut Medicare fraud–just think how much more fraud there will be with all healthcare covered. And we are 12Trillion in debt! After this, amnesty, so all those illegals are covered, AND will be able to vote their thanks to the Democrats in November. What a world we live in.


March 17th, 2010
11:58 am

If the GOP had done a better job when they had the reins, they wouldn’t have gotton booted out. The D’s just might not be able to handle prosperity either. Politics is a see-saw.


March 17th, 2010
12:08 pm

And Grace Marie Turner has accomplished what in her brief visit on this planet ?
The problem with any legislation is that is often displeases as many as it pleases. Only the passage of time validates and little time has passed in Massachusetts to arrive at any conclusions.
Governor Daniels, as you know, is on the list of GOP politicians least liked by Tea Partiers. Another example that someone will always be against anything done to solve a problem. Hence, the political affinity for doing nothing well.
How about you, Kyle? What do you contribute to society? What difficult decision have you made for the folks? Let us know so that Grace Marie or somebody can sort out why you you.
There is a lot wrong with Romney Care. There is a lot right with Obama Care. A majority of Mass voters ( 68 % ) like their health care plane. A majority of national voters do not like Obama Care.
Even Grace should be able to understand the difference despite her obvious professional biases.
It Another thing Grace is fuzzy on…..and you quote her, so you are fuzzy as well.
Massachusetts has one of the highest cost of living of any state in the nation. There medical costs have gone up… about the national rate. Their per capita spending is the highest in the nation…….but they have 98 % coverage and the nation has 75-80 % coverage. Can not you and Grace do this elementary math ???


March 17th, 2010
12:09 pm

Obamacare, also like Romneycare, doesn’t do a thing except get the government involved in something else they shouldn’t be involved in.

Just another part of the bullet train to socialism, and another reason I didn’t vote for Romney in the primary. (Or John McCain, for that matter.)


March 17th, 2010
12:21 pm

The fact that he atleast tried playing a role changing a flawed healthcare system could win him independents no ? Coming from a religion that believes Jesus hung out with indians I have to believe would be his Waterloo .

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 17th, 2010
12:45 pm

Kyle’s argument is sound, and I think healthcare was Mitt’s biggest millstone in 2008. Mitt seems to me to be a brilliant technician, a wizard who can get anything done, but one who lacks what GHW Bush called “the vision thing.” Mitt’s core values are good, and his history/resume is strikingly full (at least compared to that of Chauncey.) Mitt would be a great VP for a visionary like Gen Petraeus.


March 17th, 2010
12:47 pm

If the anti-Mitt crowd has their way it’s Obama till 2016. By that point, too many left wing policies will be in place to unwind out of for probably two generations. Lucky for us, the relevance of one state’s healthcare reforms (and how they differ vastly from Obama’s national healthcare agenda) is not the albatross around Romney’s neck those who dislike him think it is.

It’s Romney in 2012 or Obama till 2016.


March 17th, 2010
12:55 pm

Here Here, Ragnar. I’ve long championed for a Romney/Petraeus or Petraeus/Romney administration. I don’t necessarily hold one above the other in terms of presidential potential, as the ticket either way would be the best one since Reagan/Bush. The rationale is the same as we would’ve had in 2008 had McCain not stupidly selected Sarah Palin: two men whose skill sets are perfectly matched to the present ills. In 2008, McCain could’ve convinced that having Romney as VP would delegate domestic and economic duties, since that seems to be his passion, to Mitt while John would be free to pursue his, foreign policy. Instead, we got a gimmick.

However the public conscious of economic malaise and hardship was not that broadly felt in 2007-08, and McCain was demonized by Obamedia as being ‘to the right’ of Bush on the Iraq War.

Now, and likely in 2012, we’ll have the present ills prevail still and act as a menace on the whole spectrum of the public’s attention. Romney and Petraues, in either order, would be ideal since the rationale voters would’ve had for McCain-Romney in 2008 would be all the more true when McCain’s replaced by Petraeus in the equation, in any place and position.

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 17th, 2010
1:01 pm

All government redistributions of wealth, risk, and social obligations are doomed to failure, including ObamaCare, Medicare, Rapid Rail, School Voucher, Social Security, and the biggest graft and corruption ridden program of all, Defense spending. Each and every member of Congress, both past and present, is a liar and a thief as far as I am concerned, and I treat them as such as far as the current law allows. You should pray that people like me never gain POWER in this country, because when we make the laws, there will be mass executions of past criminals, even if the crimes they committed were legal at the time of the crime. Joe Stalin will be proud, very proud indeed.

Old Shoes

March 17th, 2010
1:15 pm

The religious right, the Pat Robertson’s of the GOP would never vote for a Mormon…..if you ain’t born again, you ain’t one of us….

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 17th, 2010
1:21 pm

What was old Joe Stalin’s religion? I think he once studied for the priesthood, so my guess is Russian Orthodox. We can learn much from old Joe about how to deal with crooked politicians and thieves who seek to steal our tax money for their own benefit. The wall street crooks steal the freshly printed (electronically) fed dollars and call it a reward for taking risks. Shouldn’t freshly created dollars be distributed equally among the population, and not give to the wall street thieves en mass?


March 17th, 2010
1:34 pm

Old Shoe, actually Dobson endorsed Romney. Furthermore, the Moral Majority is widdling away at the bigotry plague within some segments of southern evangelicalism as it unites what people of all faiths (especially within the christian dominion) have in common and how it pertains to them all when it comes time to exercise their political rights in voting.


March 17th, 2010
1:40 pm

Kyle, the main reason is wont be Romney is the same reason it wasn’t Romney in 2008 and his record as govenor has nothing to do with it.

Campaigns are won by contributions, not campaigners (and based on the current and last President, certainly not past achievements). The evangelicals aren’t going to funnel money to a mormon, period.

Romney could have been the ultimate conservative, the ultimate low spender, reduced taxes to zero, and still wouldn’t have stood a chance against any Christian.


March 17th, 2010
1:54 pm

RJ, actually the facts about contributions run the other way. Romney outraised every Republican competitor, not including his personal donations to his own campaign (his personal donations kept his coffers competitive with those of Obama and Hillary, who led). So Mitt did outraise every Republican competitor, only he did not outraise them all combined. This, if you like to look at things only in terms of dollars raised, is a microcosm of how he actually lost in 2008 because while he outperfomed every other Republican in terms of average finish (until Super Tuesday when he split, after Crist screwed him in Florida), he could not outperform the entire Republican field aligned against him, as it was: McCain and Rudy on the left, Fred and Friar Huck on the social right. Rudy sandbagged to keep McCain alive while Huckleberry and Fred only syphoned votes that would’ve gone to Romney over either McCain or Rudy in crucial states indeed, but only of one region in all the country. In other words, Fred nor Huck stood a chance at winning any nomination as they are merely regional candidates. Subtract those two and Rudy’s asssit to his “good friend” John McCain wouldn’t have mattered.

But it’s all for the better as even if Romney had won the nom in 2008, he wouldn’t have beaten Obama given the public’s yearning to historically elect a black president matched with Bush/Republican fatigue, a sputtering economy and two protracted wars with no end in sight. Fast forward and Obama has more than dobuled the national debt. Record deficits and budgets year after year are the norm for him, in one, his first, in fact, eclipsing all the red ink of Bush’s 8 years. The wars have continued and not getting better: more than 1/3rd of our war dead in Afghanistan have occurred under Obama’s short presidency already. No focus on job creation. No focus on improving the process of DC political rule, as he promised, nor transparency. Instead, he wants more control and less transparency as he bullies through a healthcare ‘reform’ bill that will result in Uncle Sam getting a very huge step closer to getting its hands around the 53% of the health industry it does not already control via Medicaid, Medicare, the VA System, etc.

Obe has not led as the deciding voters–moderate/independents, swing voters–felt he would and guess who they overwhelmingly prefer among all Republican prospects: Mitt Romney. In other words, it won’t matter if JimBob and BillyJoe don’t like the mormon man and his underwear, because those of us with IQs above, lol, 80 know that matters of actual importance are at stake.

Churchill's MOM

March 17th, 2010
2:03 pm

Why the RINO party can’t lead or be trusted if they win congress in november..


March 17th, 2010
2:08 pm

I was banging my head against the wall the other day and it kinda hit me (actually, I was riding my bicycle, my own form of “healthcare reform”). I am not as optimistic as Tar and Feather Party (sadly, for all my cynicism, the status quo will remain the status quo). anyhew, here’s an novel (rational/logical) idea: if the gub-ment is determined to pass healthcare reform legislation, why hasn’t anyone from EITHER party said; “OK, we tried this in Massachusetts and it failed. What can we learn from this?” Is the answer a “public option”? Is it a “single payer” plan? Do we allow consumers to shop for insurance in a truly open market (sans state-to-state restrictions)? do we do away with the very notion of “pre-existing conditions”? Is it not funny that if I smoke, or I am a cancer survivor, my premiums will be adjusted accordingly, if I am covered at all, but I get no credit for running a a marathon (two full, three 1/3 marathons). I don’t get credit for being a fit, active, healthy 50 year-old. This is because “healthcare reform” is just a sound-bite. Insurance companies and providers do not “care” about the “health” of the consumer, beyond what the acutaries (look it up – they’re beancounters without the charm) tell them. I am inclined to believe it is not possible to reform a system which, like homeland securuty cannot possibly complete the mission. everybody gets sick, everybody has accidents, and everybody dies. health insurance is little more than a “short sell” and we’ve seen how that game is played on Wall Street – handful get billions, but the customers (those who pay premiums) assume the “risk”. it’s bad enough the government does what it wants, but it would be nice to think they actually put their heads together and got Americans “the best deal”. I can dream, can’t I?


March 17th, 2010
2:13 pm

Kyle…please clue us in to what the conservative ideal would be? Let’s talk about care only…what’s to prevent my premiums to skyrocketing when I have a serious illness or with age? I’ve never bought in insuring those who don’t have it because I do have it but I am gravely concerned with rescission and the cost of premiums as I age or actually have to use it for more than a check-up. Please don’t tell me nothing can be done.


March 17th, 2010
2:33 pm

The Repugs will bankrupt us with the warfare-welfare state, while the Demos will bankrupt us with the welfare-warfare state.

Although, it is always better going out while fighting, there is really not a choice between the two parties. (Mitch Daniels thinks that government is the answer to everything too.) Coorporatists tools all.

Our only chance is Ron Paul or a third party. Throw the bums out.

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 17th, 2010
2:35 pm

Join the Tar and Feathers Party, I call it the “Revolt of the Middle Class.”


March 17th, 2010
2:40 pm

Kyle and the Republican suggestion for healthcare: Stay Sick, because we don’t have enough primary care physician. I guess you think MA has more people seeking treatment at the ER because they now have health insurance.

And yes, we need a single payer option for the exact reason you stated. There will be people who don’t qualify into programs like MA because their income is too high for Medicaid and to low for a regular insurance premium.

In addition, with the budget cuts geared toward education; we will continue to have shortages of doctors, nurses, etc….


March 17th, 2010
2:46 pm

Kyle, the author of your source document is president of the Galen Institute. The mission statement of which is:

The Galen Institute is a non-profit public policy research organization devoted exclusively to advancing free-market ideas in health policy.

And, she found that government healthcare didn’t work. Shocker! Bottom line, thousands of people got care. Once the physicians see the glut in the market, they’ll come a runnin’.


March 17th, 2010
2:47 pm

A major cause of the rising costs of healthcare are the serial hypochondriacs who plague emergency rooms with their imagined illnesses. More than half of all emergency room visits are occasioned by only 5% of the pool of patients.

Give or take.

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 17th, 2010
3:33 pm

Don’t forget the drug seekers Shiftless, they are a plague on the health care system. If they get admitted to the hospital, they treat the nurses like waitresses, seeking luxury hotel like care. The is to get the nurse to call the doc for more drugs to shut them up, otherwise they dominate the nursing time. The patient load has increased to almost 9 patients to one nurse, so time cannot be wasted on drug seekers. A solution needs to be found, a final solution, if you get my drift.


March 17th, 2010
3:59 pm

I just laugh every time someone rises up to try and tie a noose around Romney’s neck. Be it religious bigotry against mormons, a generic flip-flop utterance based on the fact he’s a pro-life convert (note: one change of a mind, not myriad, and it was a change from A to B, not A to B and back to A again, which is what a flip flop is, what makes John Kerry unique), or now the fact that he accomplished healthcare as Governor of MA. A plan which is just 1.4% the state budget yet deemed by political opponents as one that’s “breaking the bank” or “bankrupting the state”.


Anyway, you’ve seen an article that compares the comparables between what reforms were accomplished in MA, now see one that points out where they contrast and how much that matters:


March 17th, 2010
4:45 pm

I think the republicans will nominate Romney because the radical right wing of the party will divide up primary votes among the radical’s favorite candidates in much the same manner as they did in 2008.

Palin, Huckabee, Jindall and Pwalenty are all clones of each other and each will pander to the extreme base of the party (as they should as that is where the primary voters will be). They will pave the way for the more pragmatic business oriented Romney. If Romney had to face any one of these candidates in a one-on-one primary contest, any one of these candidates would beat Romney in 45 of the 50 state primaries.

Once Romney is nominated, the republican radio entertainers will be only lukewarm in their support of their party’s nominee and the radical tea party wing of the party will sit on their hands, thus paving the way for the re-election of President Obama.


March 17th, 2010
6:55 pm

Here is a quote from the Mass State website: “Key provisions of the law include subsidized health insurance for residents earning less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, and low-cost insurance for all other residents who are not eligible for insurance through their employers.”

Did you note the number? If you make less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. At least Obamacare has the number at 100%. Now you know why people in Mass voted for Brown. Obamacare would destroy their gravy train!

300% of Federal Poverty Level is $66,150 for a family of four. Family with 2 kids who make $66,000. gets free insurance from the taxpayers of Mass.

And you guys think Obama is liberal? He has a long way to go to be as liberal as Romney. You remember Romney the “Liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts” don’t you? And do not tell me it is not his fault, he signed the bill!

Michael H. Smith

March 17th, 2010
7:47 pm

Kyle…please clue us in to what the conservative ideal would be?

Gotta’ love it! The problem is the Republicans have never presented “The Conservative Ideal”. What they’ve presented is “The Libertarian Ideal”, Brucie.

No More Libertarians!!

it’s bad enough the government does what it wants, but it would be nice to think they actually put their heads together and got Americans “the best deal”. I can dream, can’t I?

neo-Carlinist, the gub’ment never solves the problems. As it always has been the people, we the people, are the ones who actually do the best job of solving our own problems, if gub’ment would kindly step out of the way and only allow us to get that proverbial best deal for ourselves.

As for Mit Kyle, how many people do you think wish today that he was sitting in the White House rather than Obama?

Mit’s real problem is trustworthiness among the conservatives. On paper he is everything we say we wanted, in reality we didn’t buy it. Next time around will be no different, sadly. And why sadly? Oblivious reasons, Mit is the only one that ran in ‘08 that has the proven business sense to turn the economy around in the right direction.

And forget Ron Paul!

No More Libertarians!!

Old Shoes

March 17th, 2010
11:20 pm

Wingnut is a commie, he moderates free speech, Declan- I would like to dispute your claims but Wingnut fears dissent…

Eric Tanenblatt

March 18th, 2010
12:32 pm

Yesterday, columnist Kyle Wingfield posted a piece entitled “Health Care: The Main Reason It Won’t Be Romney In 2012” on the AJC blog. It refers to an op-ed that appeared in the WALL STREET JOURNAL criticizing and comparing the Massachusetts health care plan to what Democrats and President Obama are trying to pass in Congress right now.

First, Governor Mitt Romney has clearly stated that he is focused on getting Republicans elected to office in 2010 and won’t make any decisions until after the midterms.

Second, Mr. Wingfield’s post ignores the many differences that exist between the Massachusetts health care plan and Obama’s plan. There was no tax increase in the Massachusetts plan and nor was there a cut to Medicare. The Bay State plan was also designed just for them, not a one-size-fits-all federal plan the Democrats are trying to force feed on all of America.

Third, the Massachusetts plan had bipartisan support. Including the support of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, who helped develop portions of the plan. And Republicans like then-State Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) voted for the plan as well (yes, Senator 41). Also, a 2009 study by the conservative Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation found the plan’s costs “well within projections.”

In this very highly charged political environment, it’s important that we stick to the facts and make sure that partisan rhetoric doesn’t override the truth. Though not a perfect plan, in part because of how Governor Romney’s successor, Democrat Deval Patrick’s implementation of the program, its ultimate goal was to decrease the percentage of uninsured in the state. To that, it was a huge success and insured 98 percent of individuals.

2012 is a long way off. But it’s important we get our facts straight now.

[...] of Massachusetts, and whether RomneyCare was too similar to ObamaCare. (You may recall that I wrote recently that such comparisons would ultimately doom his presidential [...]


April 2nd, 2010
9:13 am

“Emergency room visits jumped 7% between 2005 and 2007.”

The plan initiated in July of 2008!

Just one of about eight flaws in the WSJ op-ed piece. Truth trumps hype.