Mitt Romney's health care debacle in Massachusetts lives on--unfortunately. Observes Paul Hsieh in the Christian Science Monitor:
The Massachusetts plan thus violates the individual's right to spend his own money according to his best judgment for his own benefit. Instead, individuals are forced to choose from a limited set of insurance plans on terms set by lobbyists and bureaucrats, rather than those based on a rational assessment of individual needs.
Because the state-mandated health insurance is so expensive, the government must also subsidize the costs for lower-income residents. In response, the state government has cut payments to doctors and hospitals. With such poor reimbursements, physicians are increasingly reluctant to take on new patients.
Some patients in western Massachusetts must wait more than a year for a routine physical exam. Waiting times for specialists in Boston are longer than in comparable cities in other states and have gotten worse. Some desperate patients have even resorted to "group appointments" where the doctor sees several patients at once (without the privacy necessary to allow the physician to remove the patient's clothing and perform a proper physical exam). These patients all have "coverage," but that's not the same as actual medical care.
The Massachusetts plan is also breaking the state budget. Since 2006, health insurance costs in Massachusetts have risen nearly twice as fast as the national average. The state expects to spend $595 million more in 2009 on its health insurance program than it did in 2006, a 42 percent increase. Those higher health costs help explain why the state faced a $5 billion budget gap this summer. To help close it, lawmakers raised taxes sharply.
The failure of the Romney plan most obviously demonstrates what Congress should not do. Alas, Sen. Max Baucus's so-called centrist alternative would end up almost as ruinous as a more formal government take-over of health care.
But the mess left by the former governor, and his continuing defense of his handiwork, also raises questions about Romney's presumed presidential bid in 2012. If this is his vision of success, just what would President Mitt Romney do once the votes were counted and he was in office?