Romney: Much of Massachusetts' Mandatory Health Care Plan Could be Applied Nationwide

By Nicholas Ballasy | May 29, 2009 | 3:26 PM EDT

( – Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney told that much of the health care plan he implemented in the Bay State in 2006--which mandates that all citizens have health insurance--could be replicated on a national scale, although he prefers that each state have flexibility in developing their programs.
Critics of the program in Massachusetts have noted recently that, in some ways, it has not lived up to expectations, with spiraling costs, fines levied against people who do not join, and proposals to limit coverage and cap spending to control costs.
When asked whether the Massachusetts plan could be replicated by the Obama administration nationwide, Romney told “I think a lot of what we did could be applicable on a national basis. My preference, however, is not to have a one-size-fits-all plan pushed on all the states, but instead to give the states flexibility in creating their own plan.”

“Our health care plan in Massachusetts was tailored for our state specifically and I believe a lot of what it did would be a much better model than what he’s [President Obama] considering right now,” said Romney.
“Our plan did not include a government insurance plan,” he said. “We did not put together a government-insurance product that was then sold to individuals. Instead, we relied entirely on private market-based insurance plans to help people get insurance. I think that’s a much better model.
In its National Health Preview section of Mar. 27, The Wall Street Journal editorialized that the Romney plan as it has evolved in Massachusetts is what the Obama administration and leading Democrats want to implement nationally.
In Massachusetts, noted The Journal, the program “is budgeted at $880 million for 2010, a 7.3% single-year increase” and the “state’s overall costs on health programs have increased 42% (!) since 2006.”

In addition, the lawmakers there “have already hiked the fines for people who don’t obtain insurance under the ‘individual mandate,’” and have “increased business penalties, taxed insurers and hospitals, raised premiums, and pumped up the state tobacco lobby. That’s still not enough money.”

Massachusetts apparently does not have the money to cover everyone and is looking for ways to control costs. According to a state commission set up Gov. Deval Patrick, these would include an option to “exclude coverage of services of low priority/low value,” and another option that would put “a limitation on the total amount of money available for health care services.”

Former Gov. Romney told that he is pleased with much of the program he implemented, but he also said the legislature added things that he does not support.

“I am happy with the fact that some 440,000 people who were previously uninsured are now insured,” said Romney.  “I’m happy with the fact that the plan has changed the lives of a lot of people.”

“There’s  a couple aspects that I think should be adjusted,” he said. “One is, we have indicated in the legislation that funding to hospitals for giving out free care would be terminated in order to pay for the system--that has not been done yet. As a result, it’s costing more than it should because that money was supposed to be brought out of the hospitals and given to people to help them buy their insurance.”

“And there’s some other things I wouldn’t have done that the legislature put in there--they have, for instance mandates, in terms of mandated coverages, in the insurance itself, which I would have allowed the private market  to develop on its own rather than be mandated,” said Romney.
According to The Journal, “What really whipped along RomneyCare were claims that health care would be less expensive if everyone were covered. But reducing costs while increasing access are irreconcilable issues. … The real lesson of Massachusetts is that reform proponents won’t tell Americans the truth about what ‘universal’ coverage really means: Runaway costs followed by price controls and bureaucratic rationing.”
Michael W. Chapman contributed to this report.