Friday, January 29, 2010

Massachusetts' Other GOP Winner

Amidst the euphoria by anti-ObamaCare activist over the Scott Brown election victory, Kimberley Strassel warns that some of the underlying principles behind ObamaCare may have gotten a political boost.

Here's an excerpt from her January 22, 2010 Wall Street Journal piece, "Massachusetts' Other GOP Winner":
...Mr. Brown brazenly turned his Senate bid into a referendum on President Obama's health plan, and voters rewarded him with a job. Yet ObamaCare's model was the health reform inflicted on Massachusetts by a certain Republican governor in 2006, otherwise known as RomneyCare.

That precursor shares many elements of Washington's legislation, from an individual mandate, to employer taxes, to subsidized middle-class insurance. The program has bombed, creating giant costs while realizing minimal benefits. A big reason only 25% of Massachusetts voters strongly approve of ObamaCare is because of this experience.

The state plan has become a millstone for Mr. Romney, yet he has refused to disavow it. Had he campaigned with Mr. Brown he'd have undoubtedly been asked about it, and undoubtedly given an answer as unsatisfying as those to date.

...Mr. Romney has never backed away from his individual mandate, which requires people to buy insurance or pay a fine. Yet Republicans and independents despise the mandate, with many believing it is downright unconstitutional.

Mr. Romney's subsidized coverage is meanwhile doing what entitlements do: crowding out private insurers, compounding the cost explosion, walking the state toward rationing. So long as the former governor clings to these central points of his health plan, he's on the wrong side of free-market policy and public opinion.

That might be why in December Mr. Romney shifted again, saying his program differed significantly from ObamaCare in that it "solved" the "problem" at the state level, and featured no public option. But the public option argument has gone poof. And while GOP primary voters care about federalism, most will be hard pressed to parse the difference between a failed state program and a failed federal one.
Similarly, Republican Senator Orin Hatch of Utah (and co-authors Blackwell and Klukowski) wrote the following in his January 2, 2010 Wall Street Journal piece "Why the Health-Care Bills Are Unconstitutional":
The federal government may exercise only the powers granted to it or denied to the states. The states may do everything else. This is why, for example, states may have authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance but the federal government does not. It is also the reason states may require that individuals purchase car insurance before choosing to drive a car, but the federal government may not require all individuals to purchase health insurance.
In other words, they object only to the fact that the federal government would require mandatory health insurance, rather than state governments.

Unless Brown, Romney, and the Republicans disavow the principle of mandatory insurance, we may see it in a new form in a few years.

I would like to think that the Republicans would recognize the importance of arguing these issues in principle. But I won't hold my breath waiting...