Deconstructing Pipes

Posted: Nov 15, 2007 2:49 PM
Deconstructing Pipes

Since the Clinton Administration's ill-fated attempt to introduce government-run health care to the United States, mountains of paper have been produced analyzing our nation's health care system. And while Republicans and Democrats have spent countless hours debating themselves, the one group that has been left out of this debate is the American people.

With 47 million Americans without some kind of health coverage, and millions more worried they will lose what coverage they have, one Governor knew the time for talking was over. What Governor Romney proved is that you can apply conservative principles to ensure that all people have access to affordable health insurance. Instead of theories, Governor Mitt Romney got results.

Since the passage of the Massachusetts plan, Sally Pipes has found refuge in the commentary pages, where she has consistently twisted every statistic to fit her "Sky Is Falling" mentality. What she fails to recognize is this key fact: the Massachusetts health care plan is working.

In a bit of irony, the same article where rival campaigns attack the Massachusetts health care plan also notes that "the law appears to be working." More people are signing up for private insurance plans. As of November 1st, more than 200,000 formerly uninsured state residents have signed up for coverage. Families who once worried what would happen if a loved one fell ill, now have the peace of mind that comes with having a health plan of their own. No other candidate, in either party, can point to this kind of record.

It should be a shock to no one who believes in deregulation and individual choice that premiums are falling as competition is introduced into the health care market. As a result, today, in Massachusetts, residents can obtain comprehensive, quality health care insurance for as little as $175 a month.

In bringing free-market forces to Massachusetts, Governor Romney has won the praise of conservative organizations. One of the primary supporters of the Massachusetts plan was the Heritage Foundation. They have said, "Those who want to create a consumer-based health system and deregulate health insurance should view Romney's plan as one of the most promising strategies out there." The Club for Growth stated that "Governor Romney deserves credit for proposing a plan that encourages individually-owned health insurance…"

One of the groundbreaking ideas in the Massachusetts plan is something called the "Connector." While some have tried to mischaracterize its purpose, what the Connector really accomplishes is that it provides a mechanism for people to purchase their health care plan with pre-tax dollars. Why is this important? When purchased through the Connector, that same $175 health care plan mentioned above now costs about $110 per month. While $65 may not mean a lot to people in Washington or New York, for a family working to make ends meet, $65 can help pay for groceries or gas for their car. As the Club for Growth stated, the Connector "does dramatically facilitate individually-owned health insurance plans by enabling individuals to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars and choose from a number of competing private plans."

Sally Pipes also questions the spending requirements of the Massachusetts plan. The response is simple – there are no new taxes required. As part of the Massachusetts plan, Governor Romney redirected nearly $1 billion that was already being spent to reimburse hospitals for providing free care to instead help individuals purchase their own insurance. According to the Club for Growth, these subsidies "encourage individual ownership of private health insurance" that "may lower overall costs." By redirecting existing funds, Governor Romney crafted a plan making private health insurance more accessible without more government spending.

For too long, Republicans have shied away from this debate. We've chosen to speak in broad platitudes and theories about how health care should work. We have ceded this issue to the Democrats because if anything, what the Clinton Administration proved was that the topic was too hard to solve, too complex to talk about, and any solution was too expensive.

Governor Romney rejected those tired excuses. Instead of talking, he chose to lead. Of all the presidential candidates, Republican or Democrat, Governor Romney is the only candidate with a record of achievement in this area. He is proud of his record and the work that was done here in Massachusetts.

Health care reform is easy to talk about. It would have been the path of least resistance and one that has been well worn for too long by people in both parties. Governor Romney could have chosen that path. He didn't. He chose to lead. He chose to be a bold reformer. And I can think of over 200,000 reasons – and counting – why that was a good choice.