The hits keep on coming against Mitt Romney. Despite presenting the case for the health care law he pushed while Governor of Massachusetts against criticism, most observers remain unmoved.
While lementing that it’s Romney’s “turn,” Mark Steyn notes how damaging this health care proposal is to his prospects in the fall of 2012:
Unfortunately for [Romney], his signature legislation in Massachusetts looks awfully like a pilot program for Obamacare. So in recent days, he’s been out yet again defending his record: If I understand him correctly, his argument is that the salient point about Romneycare and Obamacare is not that they’re both disasters, but that one’s local and the other’s national, and that Obama has a one-disaster-fits-all approach to health care whereas Romney believes in letting a thousand disasters bloom. Celebrate diversity!
American conservatives’ problem with Romneycare is the same as with Obamacare — that, if the government (whether state or federal) can compel you to make arrangements for the care of your body parts that meet the approval of state commissars, then the Constitution is dead. And Americans might as well shred the thing and scatter it as confetti over Prince William and his lovely bride, along with an accompanying note saying, “Come back. It was all a ghastly mistake.” For if conceding jurisdiction over your lungs and kidneys and bladder does not make you a subject rather than a citizen, what does?
I doubt Romney thought about it in such terms. In 2006, he was not a philosophical conservative. Like Donald Trump today, he sold himself as a successful business guy, a problem solver who knew how to make things happen. So he made things happen. And, as a result, he made things worse. How does that happen?
Because, to make things happen in a diseased polity such as Massachusetts, you have to get it past the lifetime legislative class and the ever more swollen regulatory bureaucracy. And, whatever theoretical merits it might have had when the can-do technocrats cooked it up, by the time it’s been massaged through the legislature and pumped full of steroids by the backstage boys, it will just be the usual oozing pustuled behemoth of drearily foreseeable unforeseen consequences. The inflationary factor in Massachusetts health care was not caused by deadbeats’ using emergency rooms as their family doctor but by the metastasizing cost distortions of government intervention in health care: Mitt should have known that — just as he should know that government intervention in college loans has absurdly inflated the cost of ludicrously overvalued credentials and, in a broader sense, helped debauch America’s human capital. And just as he should know that government intervention in the mortgage market is why every day more and more American homeowners are drowning in negative equity.
So Romneycare is not just an argument about health care. It exemplifies what’s wrong with American political structures: It suggests that our institutions are incapable of course correction; it reminds us (as does Boehner’s joke budget “savings” of a couple of weeks back) that Republicans are either easily suckered or too eager to be bipartisan figleafs in embarrassing kindergarten kabuki; it confirms that “technocracy” in politics is a synonym for “more”: more government, more spending, more laws, more bureaucrats, more regulations, more paperwork, more of what’s killing this once-great republic every hour of every day. In defense of Romney, one might argue that politics is the art of the possible. But in Massachusetts what was possible made things worse. That’s the situation the nation is in — and the message that America’s lenders are beginning to get.
Over the weekend, Philip Klein also took issue with some of Romney’s comments, specifically when it comes to “free riders” - justification for the individual mandate used by both Romney and the Obama Administration, from his speech on Thusday:
The biggest problem with the “free rider” argument for the mandate is that it brands everybody who chooses to go without insurance as a free rider. Yet in reality, actual emergencies are pretty rare. Which is why they’re emergencies. For every deadbeat who shows up at the emergency room without insurance, there are many more uninsured individuals who either: a) take the risk of going without insurance and never have to seek emergency care or b) actually pay their bills if they do.
Proponents of the mandate often throw out a parade of horrible stories of people who choose to go uninsured and rack up massive medical bills that everybody else has to pick up. How many times have we heard scenarios along these lines: the daredevil skier who suffers a major head trauma and gets rushed to an emergency room by helicopter, or the twenty-something who thinks he’s invincible but wakes up one morning and discovers a lump that turns out to be a cancerous tumor.
If the real aim of the mandate were to reduce uncompensated care, there would be plenty of other ways to target that specific problem. One would be to reduce the number of benefit mandates currently imposed on insurance policies. In the current system, a young and healthy individual who isn’t getting insurance through an employer has no reason to spend $5,000 a year on an insurance policy. However, if they had the option to purchase a policy with a high-deductible that would cover their costs in the case of a rare accident or illness, they’d be able to obtain a policy for much cheaper than that. And if we changed the tax code to give individuals the same advantage purchasing insurance on their own as others have when obtaining it through their employers, then the cost would be cheaper still.
Under such a system, there would still no doubt be free riders, but they can be dealt with directly. For instance, if people who can afford insurance go without it, receive emergency care, and refuse to pay, the government can impose much harsher penalties on them than under current law. The mandate is a much blunter instrument, because it goes after all people who go without insurance, even those who never actually become free riders. Their only crime is the potential that they might become free riders.
In reality, the purpose of the mandate is to correct a distortion in the insurance market caused by government policy. Because politicians want to force insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions, it means skyrocketing health care premiums, which encourages healthier people to drop out of the insurance pool because they may as well wait until they get sick to purchase coverage, and their exit causes premiums to go up even higher. The mandate exists to force healthy individuals into the insurance pool to subsidize sicker individuals, thus preventing this so-called “death spiral.”
Romney will get some help though. Newt Gingrich, who announced his presidential campaign last week, made clear his support of the individual mandate; also noting the so-called “free-rider” problem. He did not say, however, how such a requirement would be constitutional. Wow, it’s no wonder why Republicans are underwhelmed by the presidential field.