Democrats celebrate: Happy birthday, Romneycare!

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2011 2:57 PM

By Ros Krasny

BOSTON (Reuters) - Democrats in at least three states are marking the fifth anniversary on Tuesday of the health care reforms Republican Mitt Romney helped pass when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The events were designed to remind voters of Romney's role in what is seen as the prototype for President Barack Obama's health policy -- a day after Romney announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential run.

At the same time, studies show "Romneycare," reviled by most Republicans in Congress, has met many of its goals and is relatively popular in the state.

"Mitt Romney is nothing short of a founding father of modern health reform," Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said at an event in Concord that featured a thank you card and a birthday cake.

Iowa's Democratic Party was blunt: "His dedication to a quality health care system laid the groundwork for President Obama's Affordable Care Act." And Democrats in Massachusetts mounted a "Thank You, Mitt" video on youtube.com.

Republicans have vowed to overturn Obama's program. The Massachusetts version is seen by some conservatives as evidence Romney is a RINO -- a Republican in Name Only.

Romney made no reference to health care on Monday, when he launched his exploratory committee to raise money for a challenge to Obama in a video focused on job creation and the economy.

He has largely stood by his state health plan while criticizing Obama's national program and promising to repeal it, should he become president.

A 2010 survey from the Urban Institute showed that about two thirds of Massachusetts adults supported the state's health reforms, although some 20 percent reported having problems finding a doctor who would see them.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation on Tuesday also praised the reforms, with one major exception -- continued cost spirals.

Most employers believe the reforms have been good for the state, and most doctors believe the program improved, or did not affect, the quality of care, the group said.

Still, without intervention "per capita health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double by 2020," the foundation said.

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick in February proposed cost-containment measures for the state's program. The state legislature has not yet taken up the measures.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Jerry Norton)