January 11, 2008 7:42AM

Catching Flak for RomneyCare

Over at The Corner, Jonathan Adler is discussing the health care reforms Mitt Romney signed into law while governor of Massachusetts with an advisor to Romney’s presidential campaign. 

The Romney advisor claims: “The fact is that since healthcare reform was passed just over a year ago, the number of uninsured and the price of the average individual market health insurance policy in MA have decreased substantially.” He may be right about the uninsured, but that’s a terrible measure of success. Health insurance does not equal access to medicine, and access to medicine does not equal health. Regarding the second claim, here’s what I wrote in September:

The Boston Globe truth‐​squads a similar claim and finds the reduction in premiums came from factors like political pressure, restrictions on access to providers, and greater pooling — not deregulation. Moreover, political pressure cannot last, while pooling raises someone else’s premiums to compensate. Overall, premiums under the Massachusetts law came in at more than projected. And premiums in Massachusetts are growing at 8 – 12 percent per year, compared to 6 – 8 percent for the rest of the country. Romney may not be responsible for that trend, but does anyone but Romney claim he has done anything to temper it?

Looking back on that, it occurs to me that the restrictions on access to providers part probably was deregulation. The Romney plan did repeal the Commonwealth’s any‐​willing‐​provider law. On balance, however, the plan increased regulation. The rest of that paragraph stands.

The Romney advisor writes: “Critics like Mr. Tanner [my Cato colleague] want to condemn the reforms as a failure just three days after the individual mandate has gone into effect.” Actually, all Tanner has done is make a few predictions about the ill effects of the plan, plus predict that the plan would fail to achieve Romney’s stated goal of universal coverage. Last time I checked, all of Tanner’s predictions had come true.

Finally, the advisor rather cynically argues: “bear in mind that any implementation hiccups are primarily the responsibility of the current (Patrick) Administration. If there are cost overruns, inefficiencies, etc., it’s very hard to blame someone who’s not in power to do anything about it anymore.” And if a bank security guard dynamites the safe, it’s very hard to blame him for the looting that occurs after his shift is over. 

Adler responds ably: “If a government program is only good when controlled by the ‘right’ people, then it is not a good government program.”