Mitt Romney’s Health Care Evasions

Is Mitt Romney trustworthy on health care? He’s never been particularly convincing when defending his state-based health care overhaul against the president’s remarkably similar federal plan. But his disingenuous arguments suggest that he probably can’t be trusted to take on other problematic health programs, like Medicare, either, despite promises to reform them.

At last night’s GOP debate, the former Massachusetts governor once again attempted to put some space between RomneyCare, the state-driven health care overhaul he signed in the Bay State, and ObamaCare, the federal health care overhaul that used the Massachusetts plan as its model.

Here’s how he attempted to distinguish the two:

If you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, boy, take a closer look, because, number one, he raised taxes $500 billion, and helped slow down the U.S. economy by doing it. We didn't raise taxes.

This is true as far as it goes. But it’s not the whole story. Romney didn’t pair his health care overhaul with a large tax hike. He didn’t have to, though, because he relied on generous help from the federal government to pay for it.

As The Beacon Hill Institute, a Massachusetts-based think tank, noted in June, RomneyCare only survives on federal crutches. “The federal government continues to absorb a significant cost of health care reform through enhanced Medicaid payments and the Medicare program,” the report’s authors wrote. Most of the federal help goes to pay for the law’s Medicaid expansion. According to the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner, the Bay State receives, on average, about $300 million a year in bonus Medicaid funding from Washington. All told, the Beacon Hill Institute reports that the feds have kicked in more than $2 billion to keep the program afloat, with lots more to come.

Nor is Washington the only source of bonus funding that Massachusetts lawmakers have sought out as a consequence of RomneyCare. Back to Tanner:

Romney’s successor was forced both to cut back on some benefits that the plan originally offered and to raise the state’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack ($154 million annually) to help pay for the program. The state also imposed approximately $89 million in fees and assessments on health-care providers and insurers.

Why did Massachusetts require all that extra funding? Because RomneyCare wasn’t cheap, or even as cheap as expected. It ran over-budget fairly early on, and, according to Beacon Hill’s report, has coincided with a $414 million rise in state health expenditures, $2.4 billion in extra federal Medicaid funding, and a $1.4 billion rise in Medicare spending.

Romney typically responds to complaints about the program's cost overruns by saying that the program accounts for only one percent of the state’s budget. But looking only at the on-budget cost to the state ignores the considerable federal spending that makes the program possible.

Meanwhile, Romney’s repeated evasions on his own plan make it awfully hard to trust him when he claims, as he did in last night’s debate, that he’d “reform Medicare and reform Medicaid...to get them on a sustainable basis” for those who are still a ways off from retirement. Trusting Romney becomes even more difficult when he simultaneously bashes President Obama for cutting Medicare in order to pay for ObamaCare. For one thing, Obama modeled his health care overhaul on Romney’s, but didn’t have the option of simply handing the bill off to a larger governmental entity. Romney took money from the feds; Obama took money from Medicare. For another, any reform of Medicare to make it “sustainable” will necessarily require cutting it back from current projections.

Romney argued last night that he’s a management turnaround artist who can undo the damage he says President Obama’s done to the economy. But with RomneyCare, what the former governor has demonstrated is that he knows how to pass unexpectedly expensive health programs, hand their costs off to others, and then use slippery budgeting claims to hide their true price tag. He may be running against Obama, but he resembles the president more than he differs.

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  • Brandon||

    Speaking as a former used car salesman, I wouldn't even buy a used car from Mitt Romney.

  • Gus||

    "Is it possible to trust Mitt Romney on health care?"

    I wouldn't trust him to blow my dog well.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Slightly off-topic, but I just caught today's Rush Limbaugh program. He said that Romney looks more "presidential" with every debate, but that "it was about time that Ron Paul got booed at a Tea Party event" and that Paul "should run for the Democratic nomination". I guess being for smaller government is ok, but if you're against the constant expansion of the global police force, that's a dealbreaker.

  • tarran||

    Many in the Republican establishment would prefer to be junior partners to a big government that plunders the american people to being senior partners in a government that is small and merely administers functions related to offering courts, police and military defense.

    Sadly, some in the Republican establishment would prefer to be junior partners in a U.S. government that taxes the citizenry on behalf of the state of Israel than to be leaders of one that does not.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    If Limbaugh really said that then I am right to despise him.

  • MiNGe||

    JOOOS!!!111!!

  • twenty-something||

    Yeah, because the Democrats are so anti-war these days?

  • Lowdog||

    I hate it when people whine that something is "only x% of such-and-such's budget" without talking about why the overall budget is so fucking huge. I hear it all the time in connection with NASA. While I think space exploration, tech, and science is important, the fact that $19 billion is only ~0.05% of the entire nation's budget is ridiculous.

  • ||

    Romney wants to repeal Obamacare. Of all the GOP candidates he alone has the expertise to know what will and will not work when it comes to this issue. Because of Massachuetts, he has vital experience far beyond any of the candidates. They have a lot of "soundbites" (the talk). Romney has the actual walk. He worked with many counsels even the Heritage Foundation in coming up with the Massachuetts Health care plan. Massachuetts put it into place for their state. Romney says there is no way this country can survive Obamacare. It is bad for the nation. This is an experienced voice speaking from experience. I think he would know best.

  • Susan||

    Paid for by the Romney 2012 campaign committee.

  • ||

    :) Nope....

  • Federal Dog||

    Romney and Obama are afflicted with the exact same problem: They lack the insight and/or character to admit even their most obvious and destructive errors.

    Psychologies like that cannot reasonably be entrusted with anything -- especially political office.

  • Brandon||

    Are you ignoring the fact that Obamacare is basically Romneycare? Or that Romneycare has already cost Massachusetts taxpayers billions more than it was projected to?

  • Susan||

    MITT ROMNEY IS THE ONE

  • ||

    Is there any picture in which Romney doesn't look reptilian?

  • ||

    Any truth to the rumor that Romney only eats once every two weeks?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I remember liking the original V miniseries but couldn't keep it up with new show ABC had out. Did they ever rip their masks off like in the original? Swallow guinea pigs whole? Cross-pollinate with susceptible human teens?

  • ||

    Yes, not that I recall, Yes (while looking like this.)

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Spoiler (and boner) alert! I guess I'll have to look into finishing it, then. (Assuming it's been cancelled, since she's apparently moved on to Smallville.)

  • Warty||

    He looks like he's trying to reassure a 13-year-old runaway hooker. "I promise I'll be gentle, sweetie."

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Dang, Warty. That is a perfect description.

  • ||

    Oh God that is it. It screams that.

    Very similar vibe to this picture of Cass Sunstein, although the academic setting makes me think of him extorting sex from some innocent coed who wrote a bad mid term.

    http://reason.com/blog/2011/08.....ating-some

  • ||

    Romney always looked presidential to me - that is if you wanted to cast someone as president in a Grade B sci-fi movie.

  • CE||

    But will he face invading aliens, a giant asteroid, a biological monster, or a deadly pandemic?

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    All four?

  • ||

    Never been on this blog before....you guys are interesting, but don't add much to the discussion. Lots of fun and games though

  • ||

    there is much serious discussion... and some fun n' games.

    Seriously, I've learned more from this website than anywhere else. Some of it may not exactly pertain to politics, but it is always interesting.

  • kinnath||

    You have been preceded by a different "susan" that comes here to troll on an irregular basis.

    I would suggest a different handle.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Romney seems to think if he defends Romneycare forcefully enough, people will eventually either start thinking of it as maybe having been an okay idea or stop thinking about it at all. He committed to that strategy early and I believe it will be his undoing.

  • CE||

    Hey -- nice Ron Paul Constitution Day money bomb ad! 9/17 FTW

  • kinnath||

    Someone, somewhere made a reference the other day that I can't get out of my head: Perry is obviously one of the Viagra advertisement dudes, and Romney is clearaly a Cialis kind of guy.

  • ||

    Romney and eventual VP Bachmann should do a campaign ad where they are holding hands while in separate bath-tubs sitting out on a beach.

  • kinnath||

    +1

  • sunny black||

    Okay...but will the background music be bluesy slide guitar (with the Viagra commercials) or did you want to stay consistent with the Cialis theme and go with the in-studio smooth jazz instrumental?

    People say it doesn't make a difference. But it does. You know who'd be a great guy to bounce ideas off of? Obama. That man could take the most unappealing shit ever and make it electable.

  • ||

    Mix it up. Slowed-down harpsicord version of "Pour Some Sugar On Me"

  • ||

    If I wanted somebody Presidential to help out with my boner pill marketing, I'd go straight to Bill Clinton.

  • Federal Dog||

    Beyond the question of people in bathtubs on a cliff, e.g., why are bathtubs in those ads always filled with what looks like urine?

  • ChrisO||

    Perry is a Viagra guy. Romney is a Cialis guy. And America gets the screw job either way.

  • Brandon||

    So Perry is the type of guy who would know how to get a truck out of the mud if he happened to have two horses in a trailer somewhere with a generic mountainous background?

  • ||

    Romney wants to repeal Obamacare.

    Oh, if a repeal bill happened to land on his desk, I'm sure he'd sign it.

    Would he go all in and risk any political capital to get it repealed? I doubt it.

  • kinnath||

    Obamacare was a huge payday for the AMA and the insurance industry. It will never go away. It will only get worse.

    Our only sliver of hope is that the supremes wipe it off the books.

  • ChrisO||

    I said it before in another Romney thread, but look up YouTube of Bob Eubanks hosting The Newlywed Game. Romney's doppelganger!

    If this presidential thing doesn't work out, I could totally see Romney hosting a new version of The Joker's Wild.

  • ||

    I think that health care reform is a great idea. I have type 1 diabetes and for me to get insurance, it was a nightmare until I found "Penny Health" search for them online and you can get affordable health insurance instantly.

  • Dennis Byron||

    You're telling less than half of the real story:
    -- On taxes, you leave off the fact that sales taxes have been increased 20% because of RomneyCare
    -- On the "1% of budget" quote, you totally miss the point. RomneyCare itself -- that is, not counting "natural" growth in healthcare spending -- has cost almost 2% more of the state budget than projected. That's almost a billion dollars a year.
    -- Romney's quote about only affecting 8% of the population, which you don't mention, is an outright lie (see http://byrondennis.typepad.com.....ycare.html)
    -- Residents' premiums have gone up 50% and co-pays and deductibles have gone up even more
    -- Doctors won't accept people on RomneyCare, even people paying full price
    -- Over 100,000 fewer residents receive employer sponsored insurance
    -- The charity hospitals, except for two or three name brands, are going out of business or being sold to for-profit corporations
    -- The non-profit insurers with better than 90% medical loss ratios are all likely to fold or be bought by for-profit out-of-state insurers

    Finally I don't understand your reference to Medicare. The one thing that RomneyCare did not affect -- other than to raise costs for everyone on Medicare too -- was Medicare.

  • ||

    Hasn't anyone who criticizes Mitt Romney for the Mass. Health care legislation and compares it to ObamaCare missed one BIG KEY DIFFERENCE? The people in Mass. were in favor of the legislation and approved while the American People vehemently opposed ObamaCare. If we believe in the democratic process, that has to count for something. We don't want another president like Obama who will inform us of what we "want and need." We need a president who understands that he works for us, not the other way around. I think that MassCare says alot about how Mitt Romney views the role of government in our lives.

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