BUSINESS
09/24/2012 05:23 pm ET

Mitt Romney Health Care Plan Wouldn't Slow Rising Costs: Study

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's health care proposals wouldn't slow rising health care costs or significantly reduce the number of Americans without health insurance and they face major obstacles to being enacted, according to a report by Bloomberg Government.

"While Romney has criticized the measures contained in Obama's health care overhaul, his own proposals demonstrate the difficulty of devising genuinely new solutions to the nation's health care challenges," Bloomberg Government health care policy analyst Christopher Flavelle wrote.

What would be the result of Romney's policy proposals? They're too vague to know for sure, concludes Flavelle, who conducted a study of the health care proposals on Romney's campaign website using data analysis, interviews with experts and interviews with an unnamed Romney adviser.

Former Massachusetts governor Romney, who enacted a universal health care program in his home state, has pledged to repeal the health care reform law enacted in 2010 by President Barack Obama, which is projected to extend health insurance coverage to about 30 million people if left in place.

Romney instead proposed a series of his own reforms, including slashing Medicaid funding and turning the program over to state control, converting Medicare into a voucher program, and allowing health insurance companies to avoid states' health care coverage and benefit mandates. The Medicaid plan would cut federal spending on the program by $1.26 trillion through 2022, Flavelle concludes.

Romney also backs limiting lawsuit damage awards from medical malpractice cases and some limited restrictions against health insurance companies denying to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

By repealing Obama's health care reform law without replacing it with policies of equivalent scope, Romney would seek to cover far fewer Americans, the Bloomberg Government report notes. And while deregulating the health insurance industry may be advantageous to those companies, they would also lose out on the revenue coming their way starting in 2014 when uninsured Americans begin receiving subsidized plans under Obamacare, the report found.

The 34-page Bloomberg Government report is peppered with acknowledgements that Flavelle was unable to rigorously test Romneys' proposals because the campaign wouldn't provide enough detail.

Romney hasn't said what federal rules the states would have to follow under his Medicaid plan, what pre-Obamacare federal health insurance regulations he would eliminate, how much financial assistance low-income Americans would receive to purchase health insurance, how Romney would pay for changes to the tax treatment of health insurance that would reduce federal revenue, or how many uninsured people would gain health coverage, for example.

The Romney campaign dismissed the Bloomberg Government analysis, saying it “incorrectly describes major elements of the governor’s reform plan and ignores the ongoing failures of Obamacare,” Bloomberg News reported, noting that campaign didn't say what specifically is inaccurate about the report.

If elected, most of Romney's health care proposals would still have to make it through Congress, the Bloomberg Government study notes. That's no easy task, especially considering many of his plans have repeatedly been rejected by lawmakers and some would run afoul of the interests of the states and powerful industries. "It's not clear why those ideas would be more promising today," Flavelle writes.

The Bloomberg Government report examined all 15 items on Romney's campaign website under the heading "Health Care:"

  • "Block Grant Medicaid and Other Payments to States"
  • "Limit Federal Standards and Requirements on Both Private Insurance and Medicaid Coverage"
  • "Ensure Flexibility to Help the Uninsured, Including Public-Private Partnerships, Exchanges, and Subsidies"
  • "Ensure Flexibility to Help the Chronically Ill, Including High-Risk Pools, Reinsurance, and Risk Adjustment"
  • "Offer Innovation Grants to Explore Non-Litigation Alternatives to Dispute Resolution"
  • "Cap Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits"
  • "Empower Individuals and Small Businesses to Form Purchasing Pools"
  • "Prevent Discrimination against Individuals with Pre-existing Conditions Who Maintain Continuous Coverage"
  • "Facilitate IT Interoperability"
  • "End Tax Discrimination against the Individual Purchase of Insurance"
  • "Allow Consumers to Purchase Insurance Across State Lines"
  • "Unshackle HSAs by Allowing Funds to be Used for Insurance Premiums"
  • "Promote 'Co-Insurance' Products"
  • "Promote Alternatives to 'Fee for Service'"
  • "Encourage 'Consumer Reports'-Type Ratings of Alternative Insurance Plans"

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