Friday, March 09, 2012

Romney keeps hacking at Obamacare's shadow limb

Jonathan Chait has helped me understand Romney's signature lie about Obamacare, repeated throughout the debates. The lie completes a false contrast: while Romneycare is a private, market-based solution, Obamacare is a government takeover. Here's the Jan. 26 iteration:
I didn’t say I’m in favor of top- down government-run health care, 92 percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place. And nothing changes for them. They own the same private insurance they had before.

And for the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan....

I don’t like the Obama plan... He wasn’t interested in the 8 percent of the people that were uninsured. He was concerned about the 100 percent of the people of the country.  “Obama-care” takes over health care for the American people.
For months I've wondered out of what slender thread of reality Romney spun the lie that the ACA "takes over health care" in a way that the Massachusetts coverage plan does not. The best I could come up with was the Independent Payment  Advisory Board, which can recommend reimbursement reductions in Medicare -- with an overlay of the death panel hysteria that Bachmann, Palin et al imposed on that modest instrument of cost control. He could also be referring to national standards for health plan coverage -- but Romneycare imposes such standards too, and in any case, HHS has largely empowered the states to set them.

Now I know what Romney has been swinging at with this "government takeover" bludgeon. It's the ACA's shadow limb: the public option.
Last week, Andrew Kaczynski dredged up a Romney op-ed published in July 2009 that commends the individual mandate to Obama as a component of a national health care reform (in all, Romney made at least five recommendations in this op-ed that Obama and the Democrats ultimately followed in passing the ACA).

Why was Romney, his sights on a 2012 presidential run, so generously offering Obama advice at a time when healthcare reform legislation was being demonized in town hall meetings and was in many quarters written off for dead?  Chait explains: seeking, then as now, to valorize Romneycare while demonizing the embryonic Democratic legislation, Romney
seized upon the one major difference between his plan and Obama's, which was that Obama favored a public health insurance option. The public plan had commanded enormous public attention, and Romney used to it frame Masscare as a conservative reform relying on private health insurance, and against Obama's proposal to create a government plan that, Romney claimed, would balloon into a massive entitlement.
Here's the joke: Romney today talks about the ACA exactly as if a strong public option had been enacted as its centerpiece.  Compare the bugbears he raises in this appearance* from the summer of 2009, also unearthed by Kaczynski, with his characterization of "Obamacare" two and a half years later, quoted above:
One state in America, my state, was able to put in place a plan that got everybody health insurance, and it did not require a public government insurance company, that's the last thing America needs, you know exactly what it is, President Obama when he was campaigning said he wanted a single payer system, that's what it would lead to, he would subsidize this over time, he would be a disaster  for healthcare in this country, and therefore the right way to proceed is to reform healthcare...we don't have to have government insurance and government healthcare to get that done.
Obama the socialist! Government insurance, government healthcare, government takeover (and note the sleight of hand from what Obama said when he was campaigning -- mischaracterized -- to what he "would" do if given a chance, purely according to Romney).

Joe Lieberman, killing the public option, knocked Romney's bludgeon out of his hands. Romney has barely adjusted his rhetoric since. "Obamacare takes over healthcare" -- never mind that the purported instrument of conquest is absent from the enacted law. 
*Quoted text is from the third clip in the Buzzfeed post.

1 comment:

  1. "Governor Romney, can you explain why Masscare was not a government takeover of healthcare in Massachusetts, but the Affordable Care Act is?"

    "Obama apologizes to our enemies."

    "Governor, I'm not sure that's responsive. Both Masscare and the ACA rely on private insurance, maintaining employer-provided coverage and creating a market for individuals to purchase coverage from private insurers, with subsidies for people who can't afford it. How is the ACA a government takeover?"

    "Obama hasn't even tried to sanction Iran, and is willing to let them get a bomb."

    "Governor, let's try this one more time. You have said that you support the Ryan-Wyden plan for Medicare, which is essentially the same architecture as Masscare and the ACA. Surely you're not going to tell me that eliminating government-provided health insurance and replacing it with private insurance and premium support is a 'government takeover'."

    "Obama hugged Derrick Bell."

    "Okay, Governor, let's turn to foreign policy. How would your proposed sanctions on Iran differ from Obama's?"

    "Obamacare is a government takeover of health insurance."