Mitt Romney on Health Care Solutions

Yesterday, HUMAN EVENTS Editors Tom Winter, Jed Babbin and Allan Ryskind interviewed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney about health care reforms now being considered by Congress and his experience in creating the state plan for which he is well known.

The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Jed Babbin: Governor Romney, thank you for joining us.We wanted to talk to you today about health care. One of the things we’re seeing right now is this rush to judgment. [House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman] Henry Waxman is marking up the “Obamacare” bill as we speak. It seems that there’s going to be an imposed cost both in patient care and on the taxpayer from this approach. What are the biggest defects you see in the Obamacare approach?

Gov. Mitt Romney: Well, it’s filled with so many defects it’s hard to know where exactly to begin. I’d say from a process standpoint the idea of rushing through a piece of legislation which will define the health care system for this country is a very bad idea. The right approach is one which includes extensive analysis, evaluation of systems that have been implemented in other countries and in other states, a bipartisan effort which includes different perspectives and views, the inputs of physicians, patients, advocacy groups, hospitals, business, and labor. This should be a very inclusive and extensive process, and President Obama, out of an apparent desire to score a victory, is not willing to give health care the deliberative process it deserves.

That which we have learned about his plan has a number of obvious flaws. The first is insistence on establishing a government insurance program. There is simply no reason for doing that other than to open the door to a single-payer system. Which, of course, is what liberals have long pined for and what Barack Obama campaigned for.

The nation already has over a thousand private insurance companies, many of the largest of which are not for profit, so his excuse for forming the public government option --that it’s necessary to give people choices -- is obviously fallacious.

The ongoing problems which a government plan would encompass would be massive subsidies down the road, crowding out of private not-for-profit enterprises and ultimately the imposition of a government-controlled system, or what would be at that point about one-fifth of our economy. It’s a bad idea and should be rejected.

JB: Governor, we have a bunch of alternatives to the Obamacare plan emanating from Republicans who, I think, are getting a bad rap for having no alternative ideas. Have you seen any that attract you? What are the general things that you like about the Republican alternatives?

Romney: Well, I’ve seen Paul Ryan’s plan. I’ve seen the Wyden-Bennett plan that is a bipartisan plan. Sen. McCain proposed a plan during his presidential bid. Congressman Tom Price led with a plan today, and, of course, I had a plan during my presidential bid.

When it comes to suggesting that Republicans are the party of “no,” I hope people remember that there is only one state that has coverage for all of its citizens, and it’s Massachusetts and it’s something that a Republican governor was able to accomplish. So Republicans have views and plans and our plans have a number of positive features.

First, every one I’ve seen gets our citizens insured, and does so without establishing a government insurance program. And also does so without creating a trillion dollar obligation of the taxpayers of the nation. And that’s what I think is critical. We have proven in Massachusetts that you can get everyone insured without having to break the bank. You can get everyone insured without having government institute an insurance plan. And whether you like our Massachusetts plan or not, it proves those two things, and there are some others that have other features that are perhaps just as good or better than those that we devised in Massachusetts. They ought to be evaluated, scored by the CBO and given the kind of thorough analysis that a topic as big as healthcare deserves.

JB: I’m a 17-year cancer survivor. I think America has the best care on the planet right now, and I am very concerned about the Obamacare elements that appear to place bureaucrats in between the patient and the doctor. How key is the doctor-patient relationship in your mind? How did you handle that in Massachusetts?

Romney: Well, in Massachusetts, the relationship between the doctor and the patient was not affected in any way whatsoever, and the reason I say that is because people were allowed to choose, in their own free manner, the insurance company and insurance plan of their choice.

There is no government option in Massachusetts: there is simply the availability of the various insurance programs that are offered by the private market-based insurance companies doing business in the state. So if people were happy with the system they had, and the insurance they had, rather, then they are certainly welcome to keep that, and if people who are coming into the system want to choose a plan, they are given access to all of those available in the state.

I think it’s critical that we maintain the best part of America’s health care system, and that relates to patient choice, the access to the best technology in the world, the incentive that creates innovation and technology advances in health care, the attractiveness of health care for the best and brightest in our society. All of these features help make ours the best health care system in the world. At the same time, we have to recognize that there are two major challenges which our health care system faces. The first is that we have a number of people who don’t have insurance -- some choose not to, they’re free-riders on other people and that we should end, and, secondly, our health care costs are going through the roof, and that also can be dealt with and improved, and I’m convinced that’s a topic that should be part of this overall health care reform.

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