"Our experiment wasn't perfect," said former Governor Mitt Romney, speaking to an audience of New Hampshire Republicans about the Massachusetts health-care overhaul he signed in 2006. "Some things worked; some things didn't. Some things I'd change."
Well, fair enough, though it's a lot easier to say what didn't work than what did. Five years ago Romney confidently predicted that under the law he and Senator Ted Kennedy collaborated on, "the costs of health care will be reduced." But the price of health coverage in Massachusetts is rising faster than ever -- premiums for individual insurance policies are up 6 percent more than they would have been without RomneyCare, and for employers the increases have been among the steepest anywhere. "Massachusetts still has the highest insurance premiums in the nation, and the gap is getting wider," the late economist John Calfee, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote shortly before his death.
So what would Romney change about the Massachusetts law? Governor Deval Patrick's idea of a fix is legislation that would effectively impose price controls on doctors and hospitals, with state regulators deciding how much health-care providers should be paid, and then compelling insurers to accept those rates. But price controls nearly always do more harm than good, and Patrick's bill is likely to result in making health care even more unaffordable or unavailable in Massachusetts. Presumably Romney isn't planning to endorse his successor's proposal.
Let me suggest a change he could endorse -- one that would empower consumers, expose health insurers to competition, and reduce medical premiums without the need for top-down compulsion: Allow Massachusetts residents to buy health insurance from any state.