RomneyCare’s unhappy birthday, ObamaCare’s bleak future

RomneyCare turned 5 earlier this month. So, given that the White House has portrayed Mitt Romney’s gubernatorial legacy as an inspiration for ObamaCare, how’s the Massachusetts plan doing?

Writing at Forbes, Sally Pipes explains several trends in Massachusetts. You’ll notice that these are the same metrics on which liberals and conservatives, during the health-reform debate, differed on whether ObamaCare would make things better or worse. For now, the answer seems clear.

On expanding insurance coverage versus expanding actual access to health care:

When signing the bill into law, Romney claimed that it would “take about three years to get all of our citizens insured.” In 2006 the number of uninsured in Massachusetts ranged from 372,000 to 618,000. Five years later, over 100,000 remain uninsured.

So more Bay Staters do have insurance. But that doesn’t mean they’ve been able to get care.

The Massachusetts Medical Society found that 56% of physicians are not taking on new patients. Wait times for appointments are climbing. Just two years after reform took root, one clinic in Western Massachusetts had amassed a waiting list of 1,600 patients.

On whether reform would lead to more people being able to purchase health insurance, or simply more subsidies:

RomneyCare expanded coverage simply by putting more people on the dole. Since 2006, 440,000 people have been added to state-funded insurance rolls. Medicaid enrollment alone is up nearly 25%, and Massachusetts is struggling to cover the cost.

Of the previously uninsured individuals who have signed up, 68% are receiving free or subsidized coverage.

On whether the reforms would lead to fewer people going to expensive emergency rooms for routine treatments:

Despite the expansion of insurance coverage, people are continuing to seek routine medical care in expensive emergency rooms. Emergency room visits climbed 9 percent — or 3 million visits — between 2004 and 2008. The bill for uncompensated care has exceeded $400 million.

On whether the cost projections for the reforms were accurate:

Originally projected to cost $1.8 billion this year, the reform effort is now expected to exceed those estimates by $150 million. An analysis from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation found that state spending on health care reform grew from $1.04 billion in 2006 to about $1.75 billion in 2010. Over the next 10 years, RomneyCare will likely cost $2 billion more than predicted.

On whether the reforms would lead to slower growth of insurance premiums:

A 2010 study published in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy found that health insurance premiums in Massachusetts were increasing at a rate 3.7 percent slower than the national average prior to the implementation of RomneyCare. Post-overhaul, they’re increasing 5.8 percent faster. Annual premium hikes in the state have averaged 7.5 percent since 2000.

The average employer-sponsored family health plan costs nearly $14,000. That’s higher than anywhere else in the nation.

And, finally, on whether the public would learn the love the law once it was in place:

A poll by Suffolk University found that 49 percent of state residents do not think that RomneyCare has been beneficial. That represents a 20 percent drop since the law passed in 2006. A mere 38 percent felt the law was helping.

A pretty grim picture of what’s likely in store for us nationwide.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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58 comments Add your comment


April 26th, 2011
8:21 am

Demwit logic: This plans a failure so let’s spread the pain to everyone. Good job Demwits. Mission accomplished.

Scooter (The Original)

April 26th, 2011
8:28 am

“A pretty grim picture of what’s likely in store for us nationwide.”

Not if you are a politician.

Senior Citizen Kane

April 26th, 2011
8:40 am

A government plan that costs more than anticipated and doesn’t work as promised. Can you believe it?

Don't Tread

April 26th, 2011
8:48 am

Further evidence to support the assertion that if you really want something to be fubar, get the government involved.

Road Scholar

April 26th, 2011
9:14 am

Kyle , what are the average % increases in health insurance premiums/costs in the US and in neighboring states for the past years? How do they compare to Massachusetts’? Has Massachusetts had budget problems for other programs? Education? Transportation? etc.?

Boehner Tears

April 26th, 2011
9:15 am

Grab yer bootstraps and pull.

Boehner Tears

April 26th, 2011
9:21 am

What Kyle is saying is that white people are paying the medical bills of black folks.


April 26th, 2011
9:23 am

We need the Fair Tax !!!

Look into a $5,000 deductible HDHP which qualifies you for a Health Savings Account. It gets the consumer engaged and the premium is affordable. A family of 6 with the bread winner in their mid 40’s costs $450/month in metro Atlanta. You actually will learn what everything REALLY costs.

goods and services

April 26th, 2011
9:26 am

healthcare is not just any good or service. It’s lifesaving treatment in some cases, and demand become irrational when it’s needed. Therefore, normal free market rules do not apply. The rest of the world seems to do okay with a single-payer system. Why can’t the US adopt a similar, and PROVEN system? Greed? Corporate profits? Lobbyists?

Kyle Wingfield

April 26th, 2011
9:30 am

Road: Pipes wrote that premiums in Massachusetts were growing more slowly than the national average pre-reform, and have been growing faster than the national average post-reform.


April 26th, 2011
9:38 am

Asking Sally Pipes about health care is like asking Hitler to weigh in on the whole Israel/Palestine debate.


April 26th, 2011
9:39 am

goods and services,

I believe it’s answer D, All of the Above.


April 26th, 2011
9:41 am

Libs have the power to suspend the rules of economics at will. They believe if you make a product or service “free” it will not result in an increase in demand and will not increase the cost to society.

Further, they believe that if you increase the tax on something, the same amount or more will be produced and that people don’t change their behavior based on taxation.

Well, at least some libs believe the above. Many other libs understand economics but just want to use laws and the tax code to penalize people “just to be fair”. Our president falls into this last category.


April 26th, 2011
9:50 am

How about quoting from someone other than the CEO of a conservative, free-market think tank?


April 26th, 2011
9:53 am

So don’t let some sick poor person make you have to wait for service, eh. All about me, typical GOP.


April 26th, 2011
10:02 am

“The Massachusetts Medical Society found that 56% of physicians are not taking on new patients. Wait times for appointments are climbing. Just two years after reform took root, one clinic in Western Massachusetts had amassed a waiting list of 1,600 patients.”

More like some sick poor person waiting behind some other sick person. Waiting behind some other sick person. Waiting behind some other…

But yea, keep those blinders on.

Road Scholar

April 26th, 2011
10:06 am

Thanks! What about adjacent states? As with unemployment, HC has regional imlications.


April 26th, 2011
10:09 am

There is one place in healthcare that free market principals do apply. Doctors don’t have to take these patients. They can refuse medicare patients, and regularly do. They will simply opt to take only those patients who can pony up the money to pay them. Then those who eat themselves to death watching tv during the day and collecting their welfare checks will have to find something else to do for amusement than to run to the doctor with every hang nail.


April 26th, 2011
10:10 am

There is a lesson not to be missed here – given the opportunity, republicans can be every bit as incompetent with their big government plans as democrats.

Want another example? Newt Gingerich wants big government to dictate how and when lessons about our “Creator” are incorporated into public school curriculum!! No thanks – it is my responsibility, not big government’s responsibility, to direct my children regarding our Creator. Hands off!

Want another one? Many republicans want government, not private enterprise, to control when, where and how private property is developed. Here is there rule – if we don’t like your religion, party affilation, etc., we will control the development of private property if it will help us win a few more votes.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

April 26th, 2011
10:20 am

Our non-conservative friends are determined to repeat King Canute’s disastrous experiment. The command-economy always fails.

JF McNamara

April 26th, 2011
10:24 am

I’m not worried. Change takes time, effort, and re-evaluation. I’m sure they’ve got smart people working on the issues they didn’t foresee.

Other nations have already dealt with these problems and proven their systems more effective. If we can’t do the same, its our own incompetence.

In addition, I’m sure you could find an article that talks about how great RomneyCare has been. Preaching to the choir with a one sided argument gets hits and gets your base up, but its not all that intellectually honest.

Rafe Hollister

April 26th, 2011
10:34 am

Kyle, the sad thing about the predictable failure of Obamacare is where we go after the debacle. Barry is often quoted on many issues by saying “We ain’t going back”. If he is reelected, we can expect him to “tweak” Obamacare to fix what does not work. His “tweaking” will included universal single payer socialistic changes designed to make us all more dependent of the Democrats.

He wins either way, and I am not sure, he wants the current Obamacare to work, as he didn’t quite get all he wanted the first time. If it fails, he and the MSM will blame the Republicans for not fully funding it and for killing the single payer option. The dumb masses will fall for anything as long as they think they are getting something for nothing.

Kyle Wingfield

April 26th, 2011
10:38 am

Road: I’m looking…

Will: I agree! Plans to grow government are bad regardless of the party that proposes them.

JF: When I Google “RomneyCare success,” what I see are articles referring to the increase in the percentage of people in Massachusetts who have health insurance. Pipes doesn’t dodge the fact that coverage has increased — she just points out that having insurance isn’t the end-all, be-all of health care.


April 26th, 2011
10:52 am

Kyle, It is easy to criticize something if you pick and choose your “evidence.” But it is also intellectually dishonest.
Take the very first “flaw” you quote from Sally Pipes: “The Massachusetts Medical Society found that 56% of physicians are not taking on new patients. Wait times for appointments are climbing. …”
Is this the fault of the plan? Let’s have a plan that will increase the reimbursement of the physicians by 100%. How many will not take new patients? Hardly anybody. Would that mean it was a good plan?


April 26th, 2011
10:52 am

Just say it, Kyle. “I’ve got mine, so get the hell out of my way you sick and old scumbags!”


April 26th, 2011
10:56 am

Kyle, here is another example of your and Sally Pipes cherry picking:
The poll by Market Decisions, a research and consulting group, found that 84 percent of residents are satisfied with the Massachusetts plan, which requires most adults to have health insurance.

Thulsa Doom

April 26th, 2011
10:58 am


I don’t remember the specific numbers but when Medicaid and Medicare were introduced they were also projected to take up something like 1% and 3% of the federal budget and now they take up something like 8% for medicaid and I’m not sure on Medicare. I just know its substantially higher than what it was initially projected to be. Any info on what those 2 programs initially cost as a % of the budget when introduced, what % they now take up, and how much they have grown over their initial cost projections?

Ignorant Conservatives Rule

April 26th, 2011
11:01 am

Let’s see:

Out of Massachusetts’ population of 6.6 million, 100,000 are uninsured, or 1.5%. Probably can’t get much better than that. These people either pay the yearly penalty not to join a health plan or are exempt for religious reasons. Sounds like a success story to me.

56% of MA doctors are not taking on new patients. Maybe instead of copying and pasting, Kyle could have performed a modicrum of research and let us know WHY? For example, Georgia ranks 40th in the numbers of doctors per capita. In other words, big shortage. Maybe this affects how doctors take on new patients?

“Romneycare expanded coverage by simply putting more people on the dole”. The only people receiving free medical care are those who live below 300% of the federal poverty level. Everyone else pays for health care.

“Of the previous uninsured individuals who have signed up, 68% are receiving free or subsidized health insurance.” Subsided health care is the purpose of the plan. Kyle, any idea how many of the 68% are receiving free health care?

Also, health insurance premium increases are due to annual trends in medical care.

“Pretty grim picture”, huh Kyle? What is it with conservatives and fear?

BTW, last year, Georgia taxpayers paid the medical bills of uninsured sick Georgians to the tune of $500 million.

JF McNamara

April 26th, 2011
11:16 am


My first point is that change is a process. Throwing stones at health care now is like throwing stones at the Iraqi War in 2007. It was poorly implemented and its not going well, but the process isn’t over.

People have to have time to change behaviors, and understand what to do. They’re essentially in the 5th inning of a 9 inning baseball game.


April 26th, 2011
11:20 am

Kyle, it is interesting and informative to hear what a detractor thinks of RomneyCare. It would be just and interesting and informative to hear what supporters think.


April 26th, 2011
11:26 am

Despite the bias of Kyle and the conservative “think tank” experts he likes to cite, it is clear that most Mass. citizens are receiving healthcare through the program at a comparatively reasonable price. Compare any of the figures he cites with Georgia. And the polls I have seen indicate the program is immensely popular in Mass.


April 26th, 2011
11:28 am

What Drs won’t like to hear is, in many cases they are not needed and this should be the way to head forward. PAs and nurse practitioners can handle much of the load for routine visits. Drs and surgeons can be utilized for other needs. Administators, both health and insurance need to realize they work in the health care industry, they don’t provide the care. (overpayed)


April 26th, 2011
12:00 pm

So, yuzeyurbrane, “all the polls” that you believe show “immense” popularity with RomneyCare–

The Suffolk University poll found that 49% of Massachusetts residents did not think the program was beneficial. So 51% find it beneficial. Is that “immensely popular” in your book?

Bart Abel

April 26th, 2011
12:10 pm

I support the health care law that passed last year. I’m already benefiting from it because it:

*allows my 19 year-old grandson to remain on his parents’ family policy. This helps him because, like most college students, he would probably have gone uninsured. This also helps the rest of us because premiums are being put into the pool for young, healthy people that would otherwise be left out. This spreads the losses over more people and puts downward pressure on premiums.

*increased the limit on my policy from $2,000,000 per year to unlimited. All of us, and I mean ALL of us, were under-insured before this law took effect. People who say they liked their insurance never had a serious illness or accident that required long-term care. Millions of insured people have blown through their insurance limits and lost everything to pay for ongoing care. Under the new law, that’s no longer possible.

*effectively closed the strange donut-hole in prescription drug coverage.

*requires insurance companies to use at least 80% of premiums for health care, also putting downward pressure on premiums.

*required insurance companies to cover children with pre-existing conditions at no additional charge.

*requires free checkups and other preventive services. This helps to catch disease on the front end and saves money on the back end. Once ounce of prevention, a pound of cure? This also puts downward pressure on premiums.

*even if 32 million more aren’t covered, as estimated, millions more will be covered. There’s no denying that. We already pay for the care of the poor when they go to the hospital. That’s the most expensive way to cover them. It’s much cheaper for taxpayers to subsidize their health insurance premiums, so they can get preventative care then it is treat them in the ER.

As far as longer wait times go, I’m not going to oppose health care reform because more people will have access to a doctor leading longer waits for me. The argument that we shouldn’t find a way to give more people access to quality health care because those of us who already have access might have longer waits is about as cruel and self-centered as it gets. That’s a problem we should seek to resolve directly by looking at how we can improve the supply of primary care providers, not be keeping people out.

Here’s an article that HSA proponents might want to read about the health care law:


April 26th, 2011
12:11 pm

I would suspect that the continuing rise in emergency room visits everywhere is a reflection of the population increasing and the continuation of the doctors with offices running 9 to 5 operations.

I do know of one private clinic that is open 24 hours a day. Few customers on the 7:00 am shift and just packed on the 7:00 pm shift.

Where do you go when your doctor’s office is closed and there is a medical emergency?

Bart Abel

April 26th, 2011
12:16 pm

That was the wrong link. Here’s the article for HSA proponents:

A different way of looking at the ACA is that it represents a bargain between liberals and conservatives, although not one that was ever explicitly made. The left got 32 million people covered and reforms that eliminate the worst abuses in the health insurance system. And the right got a further push, beyond the momentum already underway in the market, towards just the kind of “skin in the game” insurance they have always believed will help control health care costs. It’s the big victory in health reform conservatives seem not to realize they have won.

Freedom Lover

April 26th, 2011
1:12 pm

While only Ron Paul advocates a truly free market in health care (and always has), Romney actually tops the polls and is considered the front runner. Go figure?

And why no coverage of the repeal of the assinine 1099 requirement that was part of the horrible Obamacare package. Thankfully the house and senate passed it and Obozo signed it, but the media said nothing. Repeal of that provision will save both large and small businesses literally billions in compliance costs over the next few years.

Romney is a joke. Why the republicans seem to like him is a giant mystery.

Ron Paul 2012. He has been right about everything so far.


April 26th, 2011
1:14 pm

I agree. The masses are dumb. Thanks Faux News!

Ayn Rant

April 26th, 2011
2:32 pm

Kyle, health care is a basic human need.

All other developed nations make health care accessible to all citizens, spend a smaller percentage of their national wealth on health care, and have a longer life expectancy and a lower infant mortality then the US.

What kind of American gloats over our inability to provide decent heath care for all other Americans? Surely not a true patriot!


April 26th, 2011
3:51 pm

‘I support the health care law that passed last year. I’m already benefiting from it because it:

*allows my 19 year-old grandson to remain on his parents’ family policy. This helps him because, like most college…blah, blah, blah…ad nauseum…blah…blah’

And it’s all free!!

Right Bart?


April 26th, 2011
3:52 pm

‘Kyle, health care is a basic human need.’

So is water.

But you still have to pay your water bill.

Right Ayn?


April 26th, 2011
3:56 pm

I agree. The masses are dumb. Thanks Faux News!’


Blame someone else for the failures of a liberal educational system.


April 26th, 2011
3:57 pm

‘Kyle, it is interesting and informative to hear what a detractor thinks of RomneyCare. It would be just and interesting and informative to hear what supporters think.’

They are free to post whenever they want.

Are there any of them out there?


April 26th, 2011
4:01 pm

I support the health care law that passed last year. I’m already benefiting from it because it:

*allows my 19 year-old grandson to remain on his parents’ family policy. This helps him because, like most college…blah, blah, blah…ad nauseum…blah…blah’

Give me a goverment subsidized cell phone like the ones they advertise on Judge Judy too! You know…so I can keep in touch with my kids and make doctor’s appointments.

Right Bart?

Freedom Lover

April 26th, 2011
4:36 pm

Saying something is a “right” automatically implies that it is ok to violate someone else’s rights to achieve this state. If someone has a RIGHT to healthcare than it is ok to steal from others to pay for it. It is ok to force a doctor to treat someone. It is ok to force someone to become a doctor if there is a shortage. It is ok to take food out of the mouths of some if that helps pay for healthcare for others. This is not hyperbole. If something is a RIGHT than the rights of others MUST implicitly be violated. Even the printing of endless amounts of money is stealing from those who save, etc. as inflation decreases the buying power for all.

Everyone has a right to care for themselves and to contract freely with others to provide that care. We currently do not even have those rights in this country. That is what we MUST work on first. It is the government’s violations of health freedom that have created the current problem. The only rights are life, liberty, and property. Everything else comes from those – but government doesn’t even protect those basic rights. How can they when they are STEALING to give the right of healthcare to everyone????


April 26th, 2011
4:40 pm

“The rest of the world seems to do okay with a single-payer system. Why can’t the US adopt a similar, and PROVEN system? Greed? Corporate profits? Lobbyists?”

No, the rest of the world does NOT “do okay” with a single-payer system. Government-run healthcare is the exact same as government-run anything else – massively expensive and horribly inefficient. Canadians (the actual sick ones, not the 25-year-old granola-munching bike-riders who never go to the doctor and think free health care is actually free) come down here for treatment. The British system is a running joke in that country.

Go live in one of those single-payer countries for awhile, if you think it’s so wonderful. Oh, you have cancer and need treatment? Well, get in line and we’ll get around to you in a few years.


April 26th, 2011
4:42 pm

Kyle, “…when I google..” STOP RIGHT THERE. Sir, Google is not a substitute for sound reporting. That’s where you lost me on this one, sport.

“The Healthcare Plan has been on the street for a relatively short period of time and you’re already trying to bury because a few folks have stated that they will end it, adding yadda, yadda, yadda to their hollow claims.

I “Googled” the benefits of Obamacare (search was not like that, it was more the benefits of the Healthcare Plan by President Obama) and funny, I had stories that not only trumped your “findings,” but actually detailed the savings to the average American family and business. SHOCK & HORRORS!!! Huh, Kyle?

@ Grasshopper, I’m curious to know what’s your background? Are you from the planet Krypton where you can’t get sick?

real john

April 26th, 2011
4:54 pm

Grasshopper….Absoutely dead on!! Great posts and I needed a good laugh today.

Great article Kyle. As usual, you presented pretty concrete facts. However, liberals will still try to fight back against actual statistics. I swear, if Kyle or other conservatives said 2+2=4, some liberals would try to argue the point…Unbelievable


April 26th, 2011
5:08 pm

The government has NO business being in the health care business. The AJC Editorial board has already admitted to the “death panels”. Rationing is inevitable under Obamacare. Good and timely health care service will become a black market service, or a “bribe your government administrator” issue.

The leftists couldn’t care less that they’ll have blood on their hands – they already do and they exult in it (abortion).


April 26th, 2011
5:11 pm

Truth: “I “Googled” the benefits of Obamacare”. No, what you likely found in your search were the PREDICTED benefits. I doubt you found any actual benefits, seeing as how most of the plan doesn’t go into effect until after Obama’s first (and God willing only) term. However, the downsides are already hitting us, because insurance companies and doctors are having to take the new mandates and rules into account with their current planning.