October 24, 2007 4:53PM

When Fact‐​Checkers Get Sloppy

Washingtonpost.com’s “Fact Checker” dings Mitt Romney for the following claim:

We solved the problem of health care in [Massachusetts] not by having government take it over, the way Hillary Clinton would [but] with private, free‐​enterprise approaches … Hillary says the federal government’s going to tell you what kind of insurance, and it’s all government insurance.

Noting that Clinton would merely give Americans the choice of enrolling in Medicare or a similar government‐​run program, the Fact Checker concludes:

The claim that “Hillary care” is tantamount to “socialized medicine” does not stand up to serious examination. The Clinton health care plan has more in common with the Massachusetts plan signed into law by Governor Mitt Romney than the British National Health system. We award three Pinocchios to Romney.

Not so fast. The Fact Checker seems to assume that it’s only “socialized medicine” if the government provides the insurance directly. But really, what’s the difference between:

  1. A system where the government takes your money and decides what type of health insurance you’ll get (i.e., socialized medicine); and
  2. A system where the government lets you keep your money, but forces you to spend it on health insurance and dictates what type of insurance you’ll buy (i.e., RomneyCare or HillaryCare)?

Either way, government controls the resources. The Fact Checker is incorrect if he thinks that HillaryCare or RomneyCare are any less “socialized” just because the health insurance is nominally private.

Of course, Romney does claim that HillaryCare is “socialized medicine” while RomneyCare is “free‐​enterprise.” So the Fact Checker can still ding him for that.