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Friday, September 28, 2012

ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare

On April 12, 2006, Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts Health Insurance Reform into law.  In doing so, he proudly stated that the new law would expand health insurance coverage and consumer protections to people across the state. Less than a year later, he touted “RomneyCare” as a model for nation-wide replication. In remarks to reporters after a speech in 2007 he said, “I’m proud of what we’ve done,” and added that the law, if successfully implemented, “will be a model for the nation.” He reiterated his pride during an interview with Fox News on August 26, 2012, remarking, “I'm very proud of what we did and the fact that we helped women and men and children in our state.”

And indeed, RomneyCare is something to be proud of. It extended health insurance to middle- and low-income people through the creation of a health care marketplace called Massachusetts Health Connect. Thanks to RomneyCare, Massachusetts residents can purchase gold, silver, or bronze level health care plans that have been approved by the state Health Connect Board. RomneyCare strengthens consumer protections and regulates the private insurance market by requiring insurance companies to use 80 percent of premiums collected from members on health care rather than overhead. RomneyCare requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions and put limits on consumer out-of-pocket spending. In addition, it offers premium subsides to help with the cost of private insurance and expands Medicaid to cover more low-income residents.

And Governor Romney was right about the nationwide reproduction of RomneyCare. In 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. Mitt Romney’s own health care reform law in Massachusetts was, in part, a blueprint for ObamaCare. The similarities between the two plans are detailed in a report recently released by Families USA.

Like RomneyCare, ObamaCare expands affordable health insurance options for many Americans through the creation of state health care marketplaces, known as exchanges. People can buy bronze, silver, gold, or platinum levels of health care approved for sale within the exchanges. ObamaCare enhances consumer protections for people in private insurance plans by requiring insurers to use at least 80 percent of premium dollars collected on health care services. And like RomneyCare, ObamaCare requires plans to cover pre-existing conditions, offers premium assistance for lower- and middle-income people, and strengthens public programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

As the Families USA report points out, while RomneyCare and ObamaCare are very similar, Governor Romney as a presidential candidate has repeatedly said that he will repeal all of ObamaCare. And even more perplexing, he has said he will significantly reduce federal funds that are available to current state Medicaid programs. Ironically, his proposal to block grant the Medicaid program will shift a large percentage of Medicaid costs to the states and threaten the future of RomneyCare in Massachusetts. In fact, Governor Romney relied heavily on federal Medicaid dollars to finance his signature Massachusetts health reform law.  His proposal as a presidential candidate will deny other states the key source of funding needed to replicate RomneyCare.  As the Families USA report describes, Governor Romney as presidential candidate has articulated a policy that will make it impossible for other states to help their uninsured residents and to move forward as Massachusetts did in 2006.

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