Monday, September 24, 2012

Romney evolves on healthcare

(In his own words)

GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been remarkably flexible on a wide variety of issues, depending on the climate of the time and the audience before him. An observer might easily conclude that he actually has no personal position on any issue and is merely a political chameleon, blending in with whatever scenery he feels will best serve his political survival. His evolving theories on health insurance are particularly interesting, as the Affordable Care Act he now strongly opposes was a concept he personally installed in the State of Massachusetts when he was governor there.

Here is a look at Romney's changing views of healthcare for uninsured Americans. I have used the GOP nominee's own documented words - pulling from recorded interviews and his own writings - to illustrate how his opinions have dramatically changed over time. It is important to note that not much time has been required for this evolution of thought. The entire process appears to fit within about five years.

Just a few years back, in 2007, Romney stated that universal coverage accompanied by a government mandate for individuals with the means to acquire their own health insurance is "ultimate conservatism" and the use of emergency room treatment by the uninsured was a form of "socialism": 
   "When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that's not a form of socialism, I don't know what is. So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what? If people can afford to buy insurance ... or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservativism."

Also in 2007, he stood by that position with a sensible statement - equating the individual purchase of healthcare with "personal responsibility" - in an Iowa debate: 
   "It doesn’t make sense to have 45 million people without insurance. It’s not good for them because they don’t get good preventative care and disease management. But it’s not good for the rest of the citizens either, because if people aren’t insured, they go to the emergency room for their care when they get very sick. That’s expensive. They don’t have any insurance to cover it. So guess who pays? Everybody else. So it’s not good for the people that aren’t insured. We have to have our citizens insured, and we’re not going to do that by tax exemptions, because the people that don’t have insurance aren’t paying taxes. What you have to do is what we did in Massachusetts. Is it perfect? No. But we say, let’s rely on personal responsibility."

In the summer of 2009, Romney wrote an op-ed article for USA Today that opposed President Obama's proposed "public option" for healthcare and recommended that the federal government look to and follow the Massachusetts example of mandating health insurance: 
   "No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts... Massachusetts also proved that you don't need government insurance. Our citizens purchase private, free-market medical insurance. There is no 'public option.' With more than 1,300 health insurance companies, a federal government insurance company isn't necessary."

Then in 2010, he stated that emergency room care for uninsured is not only "socialist" (see 2007 comment above) and irresponsible but also extraordinarily and needlessly costly: 
   "Look, it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way."

In May 2011, Romney spoke in Michigan about the primary problem he had to tackle in order to provide effective healthcare for the citizens of Massachusetts: 
   "What we found in my state was that we had a number of citizens who recognized that they could get ... healthcare even though they didn't have insurance. That's actually true in most states. If you don't have insurance and you develop a serious illness of some kind... you can get care, emergency care. You may not get the preventative care you need, you may not get all the followup care you need, but depending upon the state and the circumstances, you can get care without insurance. And many citizens who could afford insurance, having learned that they could get care for free, were saying 'I'm not going to buy insurance...'"

By September 2012, after his Massachusetts mandated coverage plan was put into effect at a federal level and Romney had positioned himself as the champion of Republican conservatism, he opposed the mandated coverage model he earlier urged the federal government to copy and also decided that universal health coverage is not even needed in the U.S. because the uninsured can make use of hospital emergency rooms. In a 60 Minutes interview, Romney dismissed the need for the federal government to provide healthcare to 50 million uninsured Americans: 
   "We do provide care for people who don't have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don't sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care."