RomneyCare was the first significant healthcare reform to happen in the U.S. for decades.
(Watch the video and summary of RomneyCare from the Boston Globe here.)
The primary goal of RomneyCare was to insure everyone in the state and to make sure that no citizen in MA would ever need to worry about losing their health insurance due to circumstances beyond their control such as job loss, sickness, or financial hardship.
Here are some highlights of what RomneyCare has accomplished after 5 years of being in affect.
#1) Nearly every Massachusetts citizen is covered. A recent study showed that 98.1% of adults and 99.8% of children now have medical insurance. This is by far the highest rates in the nation. The overall national rate is 83%, with Texas having the worst rates in the nation at 74%. In Texas, one out of every six children is uninsured.
#2) RomneyCare remains exceptionally popular among state residents. Studies repeatedly confirm that 67-84% of Massachusetts residents are happy with the plan and would not go back to the old system if given the chance.
#3) Many more businesses are offering medical insurance to their employees. Now 76% of employers of medical insurance to their employees, compared with 70% just five years ago. The national rate remained at 60%.
#4) The costs of "free-rider" care has gone down significantly. "Free-riders" are people who show up at the Emergency Room without medical insurance and have no way of paying for all the costs of their medical care, yet receive medical care anyway and then pass the bill on to the government and taxpayers. Before the new law, costs of treating the uninsured was $656 million in 2006, (but some estimates put the cost of free-riders at over a billion dollars). Last year, even after five years of medical cost inflation, the cost was $540 million.
#5) The overall costs of the program to the state have not exceeded expectations. At the time of passage, Romney predicted that the new law would add just 1 to 1.5% to the state budget. Last year the cost was 1.2% which is precisely where Romney predicted. Keep in mind that the costs to the state would be much lower if the Democratic legislature and Governor Patrick (Romney's successor) hadn't added significant costs to the healthcare law. (For a more in depth discussion on how the Democratic legislature increased the costs of the bill, click here.)
How RomneyCare Was Created
Remember that the overall goal of RomneyCare was to provide all citizens with access to affordable health insurance and to eliminate the "free riders" who expected the government or taxpayers to pay for their healthcare. The plan did an extraordinary job of covering nearly half a million people who were previously uninsured without raising taxes.
In order to accomplish the goal of covering all the citizens of MA, Romney put together a team of business experts, not a typical political team, to explore new options for providing health insurance to more citizens. The members of this team were a former investment banker, a Bain & Company partner, a professor from MIT, an expert in federal health programs, a Washington policy guru, and experts from the Heritage Foundation. For over a year, Romney and his team studied the details of health insurance in their state.
One of the most surprising things that the team discovered was that only 20% of the uninsured were truly too poor buy health insurance. This is a very important point because it had generally been assumed that all the uninsured fell into this category. 40% of the uninsured had the financial means to purchase health insurance but simply refused to do so. The last 40% of the uninsured were people who were able to partially pay for their insurance premiums, but could not afford all of it.
At the end of a year of research and being "immersed in the details" as Romney describes it, Romney created a plan where all citizens of MA were required to purchase health insurance and the state would subsidize those who were too poor to purchase health insurance on their own. Romney was able to pay for the plan by simply re-directing money that was already being set aside to pay for free-riders, and using that money to help those without medical insurance to buy insurance. The subsidy for the poor was on a sliding scale where the poorest got a greater percentage of money, and people got less and less of a subsidy as their incomes went up and they were able to afford it on their own.
The plan was approved by two conservative Republicans who were secretary of the Health and Human Services Department under George W. Bush, Tommy Thompson and Mike Leavitt. Furthermore, the plan was supported overwhelmingly in the MA legislature with 198 house reps supporting the bill and only 2 voting against it. That is an approval rating of 99% in the MA House of Representatives! The plan passed through the state senate unanimously without a single dissenting vote.
The bill was the right step for Massachusetts as evidenced by the fact that it was supported by nearly every special interest group in the state, and passed almost unanimously through the legislature with strong bipartisan support. In September of 2011, 33 of the 36 Republicans in the MA legislature endorsed Romney for president further illustrating that the law Romney passed was right for MA.
Physician and New York Times bestselling author Atul Gawande wrote in The New Yorker magazine on January 26, 2009 that the plan "remains extremely popular" among the citizens of MA and that "a large majority would not want to go back to the old system." Recent polls show that 84% of MA residents are satisfied with the plan!
RomneyCare gave people better healthcare, and ultimately healthier, longer lives. No one in MA has to worry about losing their health insurance if they lose their job or lose their income - everyone is insured and pays only what they can afford. RomneyCare provided healthcare that is both portable and affordable, something that people have been talking about for decades.