In today’s USA TODAY – Mitt Romney starts an opinion piece with: Obama could learn a thing or two about health care reform from Massachusetts. One, time is not the enemy. Two, neither are the Republicans.
And here is the first sentence: Because of President Obama’s frantic approach, health care has run off the rails. For the sake of 47 million uninsured Americans, we need to get it back on track.
OK, stop right there – even Romney is using the 47 million uninsured Americans meme.
Health Care Lie: ’47 Million Uninsured Americans’
The number of the uninsured who aren’t citizens is nearly 10 million on its own, invalidating all the claims of 40+ million “Americans” without health insurance.
However, the Census Bureau report “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005,” puts the initial number of uninsured people living in the country at 46.577 million.
A closer look at that report reveals the Census data include 9.487 million people who are “not a citizen.” Subtracting the 10 million non-Americans, the number of uninsured Americans falls to roughly 37 million.
But according to the same Census report, there are 8.3 million uninsured people who make between $50,000 and $74,999 per year and 8.74 million who make more than $75,000 a year. That’s roughly 17 million people who ought to be able to “afford” health insurance because they make substantially more than the median household income of $46,326.
“Proponents of universal health care often use the 46-million figure — without context or qualification. It creates the false impression that a huge percentage of the population has fallen through the cracks,” Gratzer told BMI. “Again, that’s not to suggest that there is no problem, but it’s very different than the universal-care crowd describes.”
So what is the true extent of the uninsured “crisis?” The Kaiser Family Foundation, a liberal non-profit frequently quoted by the media, puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 13.9 million and 8.2 million. That is a much smaller figure than the media report.
Kaiser’s 8.2 million figure for the chronically uninsured only includes those uninsured for two years or more. It is also worth noting, that, 45 percent of uninsured people will be uninsured for less than four months according to the Congressional Budget Office.
OK, let’s get the diary back on track.
Romney states: No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts.
Michael Tanner from the CATO Institute:
What the Failure of the “Massachusetts Model” Tells Us about Health Care Reform
When Massachusetts passed its reform plan, its supporters hailed it as a means to provide universal health insurance coverage. “All Massachusetts citizens will have health insurance,” announced then-governor Mitt Romney. Thus, even by the standards of the program’s supporters, it has not met its goals.
Romney goes on: Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank.
Similarly, Romney said the reform would make health care affordable for every Massachusetts citizen. According to Tanner, however, the situation has not turned out that way.
“The reality is that in 2007, the first year after the plan went into place, insurance premiums rose by 7.4 percent. It went up by about 12 percent in 2008, and they’re expected to rise nine percent this year,” he said. “Overall, that’s an average of 10 to12 percent increases in the insurance premiums in Massachusetts.”
“That’s compared to a 6 to 7 percent increase nationally over the same period,” he said.
Although Massachusetts health care reform has fallen short of these goals, its cost to taxpayers has increased, according to Tanner.
“Despite the fact that taxes increased and tax increases there are contemplated for the future, they still find the plan under-funded going forward,” he said. “That is an enormous burden on the taxpayers of Massachusetts.”
“That might, or might not, be forgivable if it had accomplished any of its original goals,” he said. “But it does not look like the Massachusetts plan has actually been successful at accomplishing what it set out to accomplish.”
Tanner said it is important to look more closely at health care reform in Massachusetts to address the issue on the national level.
“We started with a program that increased subsidies and limited choice. That led to growing costs, [and] that led to tax on expenditures, [and] that led to waiting times – the whole range that led right down the road to national health care,” he said.
Three years ago, Tanner wrote that the Massachusetts reform would result “in a slow but steady spiral downward toward a government-run health care system,” he said. “Three years in, I think that that is proving true and we are in the middle of that spiral downward toward a government-run health care plan this past week.”
Michael Tanner again:
Busting the Budget:
When the Massachusetts reforms first became law, they were projected to cost about $1.56 billion per year in total, with the largest component, the Commonwealth Care subsidies, costing roughly $725 million per year. As it turns out, those estimates were not even close. By mid 2008, the state was projecting that Commonwealth Care would cost $869 million for FY2009, nearly a 20 percent increase, and more than $880 million in 2010. However, the state secretary of administration and finance says that she expects actual costs to be far higher—perhaps even as much as $100 million higher. The entire reform plan was projected to cost more than $1 billion in 2009, some $225 million above projections. State government spending on all health care programs has increased by 42 percent ($595 million) since 2006.
At least Romney gets one thing right:
Republicans will join with the Democrats if the president abandons his government insurance plan, if he endeavors to craft a plan that does not burden the nation with greater debt, if he broadens his scope to reduce health costs for all Americans, and if he is willing to devote the rigorous effort, requisite time and bipartisan process that health care reform deserves.
Sadly however I doubt Obama will want to listen to the Republicans. Obama is on his own road and it only has left turns.
Michael Tanner again:
This was a guaranteed recipe for exploding program costs, and is likely now to lead to price controls and other restrictions that will adversely affect the availability and quality of health care. Yet Congress and the Obama administration seem determined to head down the same exact road. The focus of their health care efforts appears likely to be a series of mandates and subsidies in an elusive search for universal coverage. There is even likely to be a new government-run (and taxpayer subsidized) program similar to Medicare that will operate in “competition” with private insurance. They would essentially create a new entitlement program, without taking any steps to control rising health care costs.
Already the administration’s reform plans are expected to cost more $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. It will therefore be necessary either to run up more national debt—at a time when massive future budget deficits threaten to bankrupt the country—or to break President Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class.
And, without any other options, Congress will follow the Massachusetts model and turn to price controls and rationing. Thus, Americans will end up with the worst of all possible worlds: runaway costs and higher taxes followed by bureaucratic control over our health care choices.
Three years of “health care reform”, in Massachusetts shows that giving the government greater control over our health care system will have grave consequences for taxpayers, providers, and health care consumers. That is the true lesson of the Massachusetts model.