I’ve long been a fan of Mitt Romney. I respect the guy. He was a very successful businessman who also saw his duty to give back to the people by serving in public office — like his father. It’s an American form of noblesse oblige.
It helps that he’s a Mormon. The Mormons have some of the silliest, most absurd beliefs this side of Scientology, but pretty much every single Mormon I’ve ever met or heard of (short of Harry Reid and a couple of others) have been sober, upright, honest, honorable, decent, trustworthy people. Who happen to believe some very silly things. But I tend to judge conduct over beliefs, so I don’t hold that against them.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts for four years, and during that time he signed that state’s universal health care plan. And at that time, I had a pretty good idea of how that came to be.
When Romney was governor, he had very little real political clout. He had the “bully pulpit” and considerable executive experience, so he could quite often outmaneuver his Democratic opponents, but in the end, hard numbers set the rules.
During Romney’s term, the Democrats held over 85% of each of the Houses. That means that Romney could have the support of every single Republican and 20% of the Democrats, and they could still override his vetoes. So he had to choose his fights very, very carefully, because if too many of his vetoes got overridden, it would snowball and he would lose what little real power he had.
When the health care plan started brewing, I could almost hear Romney’s cool calculations. “This is going to pass, no matter what I do. So my choices are to take a principled stand and oppose it, or let it be known I’m open to the matter — and then negotiate away the worst parts of it in exchange for my signature at the end.”
In brief, Romney was facing down a rampaging bull. He could either stand up and get trampled, or jump aboard and hope to steer it away from where it could do the most harm.
In the end, Romney won some compromises, but signed off on what now a lot of people like to call “RomneyCare.”
And it’s turning into the disaster that a lot of us said it would be. For the first few years, the state managed the costs thanks to some hefty funds from DC, but they’ve dried up. The costs have been considerably higher than projected. And it’s led to a lot of situations that we detractors predicted would happen, and the backers pooh-poohed.
Businesses have run the numbers, and realized that they were paying more in premiums than they would pay in fines if they dropped their coverage — and have dropped it, knowing the state would pick up the slack.
Individuals have run the numbers, and realized that they, too, would pay less in fines than they would in premiums — and dropped their coverage. It’s not much of a risk — should they get sick, they can then sign up immediately for coverage, as the state banned limits on “pre-existing conditions” and waiting periods.
Insurers have seen that the state will be setting their rates based on political pressures, in utter disregard of the profitability — or survivability — of the insurers. So they’ve cut back on their offerings, threatened to stop offering health insurance in Massachusetts, or just gone ahead and done so.
And the legislature is looking at huge budget shortfalls as “RomneyCare” sucks up more and more and more money each year.
As I said, I had inferred Romney’s reluctant participation in the plan that bears his name. But it seems I was mistaken, because that’s not what Romney apparently implied.
No, if you ask Romney today about the Massachusetts plan, he insists that he’s proud of it and that it will work.
Sorry, Mitt. As long as you’re willing to keep ownership of the disaster that is the Massachusetts health care “reform,” which serves as a stark warning as to what we can all expect from ObamaCare, you’re off my list of candidates I can support in 2012.