Once upon a time, Mitt Romney took the compassionate path, favoring health care for everyone in his state. As Governor of Massachusetts, he signed into law a health care plan that covered by far the highest percentage of residents of any state in the country. According to the Census Bureau, in 2009, only 4.4 percent of Massachusetts residents were not covered. The next best state was Hawaii at 8.2%. Texas was last, with 26.1% of residents (almost 6.5 million people) without health care.
Romneycare provided the model for Obamacare. It provides subsidies so that people below 150% of the poverty line who are not eligible for Medicaid receive free coverage, penalizes employers if they don't provide coverage, and requires all Massachusetts residents to buy insurance or face a tax penalty. My sister moved to the state to take advantage of its low-cost coverage options.
But now Mitt Romney can't wait to take the malicious path and kill the national health care plan modeled after the plan he once backed. Indeed, he has vowed to kill it on his first day in office by granting compliance waivers to all 50 states.
In Obamacare's place, what is Mitt Romney offering? An on-your-own plan. He's calling his new plan the "consumer market" approach to health care. As if consumer markets actually work for consumers. They can, if there is lots of competition and low barriers to entry. Or if there is a cop on the beat able to reign in injustice. But in health care, where healthy individuals may cost little, but sick people can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, there is no incentive for health insurers to cover sick people unless they can spread the costs by covering healthy people as well. Take away the individual mandate, and insurance companies will look for every opportunity to leave sick people out on the street, bankrupt and ruined by the misfortune of ill health. There is nothing in Romney's plan that would stand in their way.
States also have little incentive to provide coverage, given tight state budgets, and most don't. In 2009, 16.7% of Americans were uninsured. That's 52 million out of 311 million people in our country. 15 states were worse than average: Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, California, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Oregon, Alaska, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama. But even the best states don't do much better, with only six states reaching insured rates above 90%. So, when Romney says: "Let states care for their own people in the way they think best. That in my view is the best way to care for the uninsured," he means: be careful where you move, because it's not my problem if your state does nothing to protect you against catastrophic loss due to illness.
Under Romney's proposed budget, Medicaid would also be slashed ruthlessly, but even if it were left alone it does not provide enough money or scope to cover uninsured Americans if Obamacare is repealed, as Romney proposes.
The new Romneycare is essentially a buyer-beware plan where everyone is on their own, dependent on the mercy of health insurers and state governments, both of which are more likely to lean toward malice than compassion.
What does it say about a man who moves from a position of compassion to one of malice? It's like choosing to become Mr. Potter when you've been George Bailey. How can we possibly consider elevating such a person to the Presidency of the United States?