Jim Talent

Each candidate in the 2008 Presidential race will undoubtedly offer a health care plan. Those plans will include initiatives ranging from a single payer system, to employer mandates, to tax incentives for the purchase of private health insurance. But only one candidate has actually done something, waded into the issue and emerged with a successful plan that does not resort to one-size-fits-all, government run "Hillary Care." That innovative candidate is former Governor Mitt Romney.

On April 12, 2006, Governor Romney signed into law landmark legislation ensuring that every resident of Massachusetts would have access to affordable, portable, quality private health insurance – without higher taxes, an employer mandate or a government takeover of health care.

Massachusetts was afflicted with many of the same problems that plague the health care system across the country. There was no easy way to buy affordable insurance except through an employer. Without the employer option, it just was not feasible for many people to buy health insurance. As a result, they had to resort to emergency room care and the taxpayers ended up footing the bill. People choosing their health care provider could not get critical information about the cost or quality of care, and excessive state regulations reduced choices and drove up costs.

When Governor Romney decided to tackle the double-digit annual increases in health insurance costs, the average uninsured resident in Massachusetts had to pay $335 a month for private health insurance, which did not include coverage for prescription drugs and featured a $5,000 deductible. Moreover, the state was spending over $1.3 billion a year on "free care" for the uninsured.

Governor Romney actually got the Democrat-controlled legislature to enact a plan that addressed these problems. He took the time to understand what makes private health insurance markets work and transformed the market in his state from one that was government-controlled to one that allows competition to flourish.

Governor Romney's health care plan featured a number of reforms. First, his plan deregulated the overburdened Massachusetts insurance market to reduce the cost of private insurance, while giving consumers more choice from a broader range of plans. Second, the plan addressed the problems caused by the fact that many people could not get healthcare through their employers and could not afford it on the individual market. Third, he redirected the millions of dollars that were being spent on free emergency room care and used it instead to help those who truly were not able to afford private health insurance.

Jim Talent

Former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) is Chairman of the Romney for President Domestic Policy Task Force.

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