Happy Birthday, RomneyCare! You're Growing So Expensive So Fast!

Today is the sixth anniversary of RomneyCare, the Massachusetts health care overhaul signed into law by Mitt Romney that became the model for ObamaCare.

To celebrate, the Obama White House has released a happy birthday video congratulating RomneyCare for making it another year—not exactly a guarantee for Obama's plan—and touting Romney's state level overhaul as the model for the president’s own national health reform:

The video, put together by The Obama Truth Team, makes much of the connection between RomneyCare and ObamaCare. Although Mitt Romney denies it, this connection is real. But in focusing on this connection, the Truth Team’s video omits certain other truths about the state of the Massachusetts health system.

For example: No other state spends as much of its budget on health care as Massachusetts. And health costs in the state are growing significantly faster than the economy as a whole—to the point where they threaten to crowd out much of the rest of the state’s budget. And RomneyCare isn’t exactly making things easier.

As Zirui Song and Bruce Landon report in The New England Journal of Medicine, despite years of political energy directed at cost control, health spending in the Bay State remains a serious concern. In 2009, for example, the state spent $61 billion on care. In 2012, more than 54 percent of the state government’s budget will be devoted to health care, the highest in the nation. The majority of that spending is on the expanded insurance coverage called for by RomneyCare. Other states have big Medicaid bills, but Massachusetts also pays for the same sort of middle-class insurance subsidies that ObamaCare is slated to begin offering nationally in 2014. The price of coverage paid by individuals is going up too. As Song and Landon note, “For individuals, monthly premiums for a minimal (“bronze”) plan purchased through the Commonwealth Choice connector (the state insurance exchange) increased from about $175 in 2007 to $275 in 2012 (a 57% increase), despite slowed growth in overall health care spending since the start of the recession in 2008.”

President Obama has obvious political reasons for tying his own law to the state version signed by his opponent: It helps neutralize Romney’s increasingly frantic criticism of one of Obama’s least popular legislative achievements. But it also connects ObamaCare, which the president has struggled to portray as fiscally responsible, to the mounting fiscal troubles surrounding RomneyCare, Obama's model. The troubles Massachusetts is already having with RomneyCare are the same troubles that America can expect to have with ObamaCare down the road.

If anything, the national fiscal issues may be worse. For one thing, Massachusetts was able to pay for a big part of its overhaul with an influx of specially granted federal dollars through a Medicaid waiver. Washington cannot turn to any larger, outside political body for cash (unless one counts borrowing from fellow nations). For another thing, coverage rates in Massachusetts were already unusually high relative to the rest of the United States. This is important because the growing costs of RomneyCare are primarily the result of the growing cost of expanded coverage. Relatively speaking, the Bay State’s increase in coverage was actually quite modest. That will not be true nationally—which means the costs could be far greater.

Song and Landon suggest that Massachusetts will be the state to watch to see which cost-control efforts work. I suspect it will be more the other way around: We’ll watch RomneyCare to see what doesn’t work—and as a preview of the problems we can expect nationally. To a large extent, we already are. As the NEJM authors write: “One lesson is already resoundingly clear: the growth of health care spending threatens the sustainability of every other public service, from education, to public health, to infrastructure, to defense. Indeed, health care spending is the most important determinant of our growing national debt.”

So happy birthday, RomneyCare. And ObamaCare, take note: This is what you’ll look like soon.

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  • Chupacabra||

    "The Obama Truth Team"

    Please, please tell me that's not a real thing.

  • tarran||

    Oh it's real, and they genuinely don't realize how far down the Orwellian path they have tread.

  • sarcasmic||

    Dude, the Orwellian path is their blueprint.

  • Libertymike||

    Does one need a blueprint when the edifice has already been erected?

  • Lord Humungus||

    the 'truth' - through a prism of lies, mediocrity, and tall tales, all projected onto a funhouse mirror.

  • T||

    A general rule I have learned in my lifetime: when anybody feels the need to use the word truth in all caps or capitalized, they are lying.

  • Peter Suderman||

    Ain't that the Truth.

  • Peter Suderman||

    (Couldn't resist.)

  • ||

    NEEDZ MOAR TRUTH!

  • T||

    TRUTH is a perception. Or a line of window hardware, I'm not quite sure from my google search.

  • Libertymike||

    PAUL PIERCE!

  • Juice||

    Aeons of awareness limited to a feeble existence
    Restrictively implanted in the vessel called man
    Genetically bound to a covert system
    Never to discover more than is allowed
    There is no truth
    Only a perspective
    The locked physical senses were designed to misinform
    We must transcend the illusion
    Breaking the barricade of infinite cognizance
    A glimpse scurries through the peripheries of allowance
    There is a doorway in the suppression of the mind
    A portal to the agenda of the gods
    Unveiling the knowledge of the celestial ones
    Unrestricted permeation of the assimilated life by the fathers of man
    Creationism in its sickest form
    Specifically manufactured in ignorance
    Gaze upon the blueprints of the absolute
    The human mind denied a greater understanding of inter-dimensionalism
    Through a vast control of molecular vibration never intended to be stumbled upon
    Reduced to third dimensional vessels of possession
    The third eye clenched shut by demonic grasp
    We are servants to an opaque order

  • Barack||

    What?

  • ||

    It should be amusing (and sickening) to see Obama and Romney debating whose universal healthcare system is worse.

  • ||

    Pretty amazing how Team Red is in the process of nominating the one man in the country that can't hammer Obama about Obamacare. Fucking brilliant.

  • BakedPenguin||

    This.

  • Paul.||

    Because, Mr. Anderson, that's the sound of Electability...

  • ||

    My name is Willard...

  • Juice||

    The original was great, but Crispin Glover was born to play that role and he played it perfectly. It's a near perfect movie.

  • Voros McCracken||

    It really is quite crazy. The biggest weak spot for Obama and the Republicans find the one guy least positioned to take advantage.

  • Juice||

    Hmm, just like John Kerry and the Iraq War. Hmmmmmmmm. Funny how those sorts of things happen, isn't it?

  • tarran||

    Mitt's dad sacrificed his political career to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the lesson his son learned from that traumatic episode was the wrong one...

  • ||

    I FUCKING HATE SHIT FLOPNEY! He deserves to be impaled, Vlad style.

    More proof TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE have the same end objectives, just slightly different speeds and paths.

    If I were more tinfoiley, I would swear this Flopney nom was a deliberate handicap.

  • Barack||

    Chillax, Dude.

  • scareduck||

    The second Romney pic alt text is BRILLIANT.

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