When Romneycare Went Into Effect Follies of a Forgotten Anniversary
The debate over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues well into this election year.
The Supreme Court will rule this summer on a lawsuit challenging the law, even as millions of Americans are already benefiting from its provisions.
Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with a pre-existing condition. Children can stay on their parents' insurance policy until they are 26. There are no more lifetime caps on benefits, and seniors are getting help with prescription drugs.
Despite those and other benefits, many Republican candidates in North Carolina are promising to repeal "Obamacare" if they are elected, and almost all of them rail against the individual mandate in the ACA as the end of Western civilization as we know it.
Folks who came up with the mandate explain it this way"
"What we are doing is saying there is no more free ride. Instead, everybody has to buy an insurance product. We are insisting on a personal responsibility principle. People are going to have to buy their own insurance if they are not insured. We'll help those who don't have enough money, we'll help them buy their policy, but everybody is going to have to buy their policy. No more free ride. ...
"We're a lot better off as a society having people taking responsibility for their lifestyle, for their health insurance, and paying as much as they can afford so they have that coverage."
But that is not President Obama talking. Those are the words of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He spoke them six years ago as governor of Massachusetts, defending his plan for universal coverage built around the individual health care mandate.
Thursday was the sixth anniversary of the day Romney signed his Massachusetts plan into law, though you'd never know it by checking out Romney's campaign website or press releases.
There's nothing at all there about the anniversary, and that's too bad, because it was one of Romney's most important accomplishments as governor.
Ezra Klein, with The Washington Post, reports that six years later more than 95 percent of Massachusetts' residents are insured.
Almost 20 percent of people in North Carolina do not have insurance coverage.
People in Massachusetts approve of the Romney health care law by roughly a 2-1 margin. And health care costs are rising slower in Massachusetts than the rest of the country.
Here's something else Romney said in 2006 when he was making the rounds on national political talk shows defending his health care plan and the individual mandate.
He was asked by a Fox News anchor if he was worried that some of the criticism of the plan might affect his political future.
"When I set out to find a way to get everybody health insurance, I couldn't have cared less," he said. "And I don't care less how it works politically."
He and his fellow Republicans certainly seem to care about the politics now.
That's too bad. Thursday was an anniversary worth celebrating.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch. Contact him at chris@ ncpolicywatch.com.
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