Mitt Romney's response to Rick Santorum's merciless attacks in Las Vegas that RomneyCare made him unfit to be the Republican presidential nominee was one big exasperated sigh: "I'm sorry Rick that you find so much to dislike in my plan, but I'll tell you the people of Massachusetts like it by about a three-to-one margin." (So there!)
Romney wasn't lying—unlike the rest of the night when he littered the stage with half-truths and falsehoods that Matt Welch helpfully listed yesterday. But should Romney be drawing attention to RomneyCare polls?
Romney's stat likely came from a June survey by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe that found that support for RomneyCare in the Bay State was holding steady at around 63 percent. But here's something else that The Boston Globe reported that Romney forgot to mention:
[O]pposition has grown to one of its central elements — the requirement that people who can afford insurance buy it or face a fine…
Forty-four percent said they oppose the mandate in the Massachusetts law, compared with 35 percent who opposed it in a 2008 poll. Still, the mandate retains the support of a narrow 51 percent majority of residents.
But things get even worse for Romney when Bay State Republicans and independents are polled. An April survey by the New Hampshire Journal found that a majority of these folks (who'll be voting in the GOP primaries) were less than enthusiastic about RomneyCare. In fact, 53 percent of the GOPers polled said they wanted the law repealed. Only 29 percent wanted to keep it and about 18 percent were undecided. Furthermore, reports the Journal:
Overall the plan is unpopular with Massachusetts Republicans. Fifty-one percent have an unfavorable opinion of it (Thirty-four percent view it very unfavorably) while only thirty percent view it favorably.
All of this suggests that had the Bay State been less liberal, RomneyCare would have been less popular. (But then again, there might not have been a RomneyCare.)
What's more, even the popularity that it enjoys among liberals might have something to do with the fact that they don't actually have to pick up the full tab for its uninspiring results. Romney deflected Rick Perry's attacks by noting that Texas had a 30 percent rate of uninsured while Massachusetts only 1.9 percent. But how many of the uninsured actually gained coverage because of RomneyCare? A measely 4.5 percent. Pre-RomneyCare, the Bay State's insurance rate was 93.6 percent And post-RomneyCare? 98.1 percent.
The total price tag for extending coverage to this small sliver of the Bay State population as of June was a whopping $2.12 billion. But if Massachusetts taxpayers aren't more disgusted and disappointed, it might be because they are paying for only 18 percent of the debacle, according to Conn Carol of the Washington Examiner. Where did the rest come from? Carol explains:
Thanks to waivers, special deals with the federal government, and stimulus dollars, the federal government picked up another 64 percent of the costs while private health insurance consumers picked up the rest of the tab (through higher premiums and co-pays passed on by hospitals and insurers). Looking ahead to next year, the state is expected to be almost $200 million short of paying for the program. Overall, total state health care spending has grown from 30 percent of the budget in 2006 to 40 percent today. The national average is 25 percent.
In short, Romney might have purchased the popularity of RomneyCare by sticking it to federal taxpayers.
Way to go, Mitt!