A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Romney: "Half of my uninsured are now insured, and I am proud of what we’ve done."

Romney: "Half of my uninsured are now insured, and I am proud of what we’ve done."

October 22, 2007

We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried. Full Republican Debate transcript available by clicking here.

ROMNEY: We solved the problem of health care in our state not by having the government take it over, the way Hillary Clinton would – with private free-enterprise approaches.

MODERATOR: Governor Romney, we have an e-mailed question from Kendrick of Oakland, California, who says the health plan you left in Massachusetts, which required people to get their own insurance, amounts to Hillary Care. You say it was the result of a Democratic legislature. I want to ask you: If a Democratic Congress placed such a plan on your desk in the Oval Office, would you sign it? And why was the plan good for Massachusetts and not good for the nation?

ROMNEY: First of all, I’m not going to give the Democratic legislature credit for the plan I helped build. So I want to let you know I’m very proud of what we did in Massachusetts, and I think it’s a model that other states can adopt in some respects. But let me tell you something about our plan. It’s different than Hillary Clinton’s in a lot of important ways. But one thing that I’m happy about is that Republicans are talking about health care. This isn’t a Democrat issue. It’s a Republican issue.

For Democrats, they want to have government take it over. And I don’t want to have the guys who did the cleanup at Katrina taking responsibility for health care in this country. The right answer is to get people insured, all of our citizens insured so they don’t have to worry about losing their insurance if they change jobs or have a pre-existing condition.

But Hillary says the federal government’s going to tell you what kind of insurance, and it’s all government insurance. And I say no, let the states create their own plans, and instead of government insurance, private, market-based insurance. Hillary’s plan costs an extra $110 billion. My plan doesn’t cost any additional money. We use the money we’re already spending, we just use it a good deal more wisely.

And the real question here is, are we going to talk about health care and get everybody insured with private insurance? Absolutely. Because the alternative is unthinkable. As P.J. O’Rourke said, if you think health care’s expensive now, just wait until it’s free. We’re not going Hillary’s way.

MODERATOR: Governor, I think one of the aspect of your plan required individuals to provide their own health insurance, and I think Congressman Hunter wants to talk to you about that.

HUNTER: Yes Wendell, I think the Governor’s plan goes in exactly the wrong direction, because while it allows for private health insurance, it has lots of mandates. He has a good piece of those 1,000 or so mandates that drive up the cost of health care. That means that every single plan in the governor’s state has to have certain things. It’s got to have, for example, fertility coverage. Well, what if you’re 90 years old? We may appreciate Governor Romney’s optimism … but you may not need fertility coverage. Those 1,000 mandates that we have throughout the States, where we do have mandates health insurance plans, is driving up the cost of health care by about 35 percent. We need freedom. We need to allow people to buy their health care across state lines. That will bring down the cost of health care.

ROMNEY: Oh, I’ve got to respond to that.

MODERATOR: Briefly, Governor.

ROMNEY: Yeah, we took as many mandates out as we could in our policies. And the legislature kept some there. I tried to take them all out; they put some back in. It was a compromise. They put some mandates there.

But let me tell you how many we got out. The price of the premium for an individual, 42 years old, in Boston, used to be $350 a month. Now, it’s $180. We basically cut it in half by deregulating. Congressman, you’re absolutely right that taking regulation out of insurance brings the price down, and that’s why my plan would go state by state, deregulate them so we can get the cost of premiums down. But it is unacceptable to keep talking about this and still have 47 million people without health insurance. We got the job done. This is the first state in American that is on track to have everybody insured. Half of my uninsured are now insured, and I am proud of what we’ve done.

MODERATOR: You spoke well of private accounts (in Social Security). President Bush tried very hard. He came into office with a reputation of being able to bring people together in Texas. He tried very hard to bring people together around his proposal. You saw what happened to it.

ROMNEY: Yes.

MODERATOR: How could you do better?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I will learn from his experience and from my own, because it took us a couple of years to find a way to get everybody in our state insured. We wanted them insured, but we didn’t want government to have to pick up a new bill. And so we spent a lot of time working on it.

We didn’t just have a bunch of bureaucrats. We had a professor from MIT, an investment banker, a head of a consulting firm. We all worked on it, came up with an idea, and then met with Democrats and said: Can we find common ground here? And, you know, Democrats also love America. As Ronald Reagan used to say, it’s not that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that what they know is wrong. So you’ve got to – you can educate each other. We’ve got some things to learn from time to time, too. And you can find common ground. We will do that, and we will solve these entitlement problems.