A Healthy Blog

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

Romney's "New" Health Plan

Romney's "New" Health Plan

June 21, 2005

Today, Gov. Romney spoke at the Blue Cross Foundation's Summit at the JFK Library and revealed more details of his health reform plan. Before today's event, the Governor revealed his plans in a Boston Herald op-ed column. This is the second time (last November was the first) that the Gov. has revealed a policy initiative with an op-ed column accompanied by a powerpoint slide show.

Revealing is what's missing -- namely, anything else. I'm old fashioned -- and I long for the days when gubernatorial initiatives were accompanied by legislation and detailed policy briefs that spelled out assumptions, numbers, and details. This governor accompanies his pronouncements with zero details, making it impossible to evaluate. So the Gov. says we're spending about $947 million now for care for the uninsured, and his plan will spend -- voila -- $947 million. Believable? Who knows because the Administration keeps its numbers to itself. The Gov. embraces the fashionable notion of "transparency" in health care. A little "policy transparency" would set a good example.

Beyond this, what's new? The Gov. talks about "personal responsibility," coming close to embracing an "individual mandate" to require individuals to purchase insurance. Scofflaws would face the loss of their personal tax exemption, and the Gov. would have the state garnish the wages of uninsured folks with unpaid medical bills. No tough talk, though, for employers who don't cover their workers. They're off the hook. Our sense is that the Romney plan provides a huge incentive for many employers to stop offering coverage.

Where's this stuff come from? The Gov. (and his staff) say they've been talking with the Heritage Foundation, the right wing Washington DC think tank that wants to replace employer sponsored health insurance with individual insurance, and that champions Health Savings Accounts that stick consumers with high deductibles. Governor Romney admits to holding conference calls with Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist -- America's leading right wing demagogue -- to consult on tax policy. Now he's turning his health policy development over to the Heritage Foundation.