RomneyCare's Unhappy Anniversary
Earlier this month, the landmark Massachusetts health care reform law turned five years old. Democrats were quick to applaud the anniversary, as the Bay State law is the model for the federal health care reform package that passed last year.
The anniversary has proved especially inconvenient for former Massachusetts Governor and probable Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who argued forcefully for his state's reforms. In 2006 he boldly stated, "Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the cost of health care will be reduced."
Five years later, that prediction has proved false. Worse, the Massachusetts experiment offers an ominous preview of what lies ahead for the rest of the nation under ObamaCare.
When signing the bill into law, Romney claimed that it would "take about three years to get all of our citizens insured." In 2006 the number of uninsured in Massachusetts ranged from 372,000 to 618,000. Five years later, over 100,000 remain uninsured.
So more Bay Staters do have insurance. But that doesn't mean they've been able to get care.
The Massachusetts Medical Society found that 56% of physicians are not taking on new patients. Wait times for appointments are climbing. Just two years after reform took root, one clinic in Western Massachusetts had amassed a waiting list of 1,600 patients.
RomneyCare expanded coverage simply by putting more people on the dole. Since 2006, 440,000 people have been added to state-funded insurance rolls. Medicaid enrollment alone is up nearly 25%, and Massachusetts is struggling to cover the cost.
Of the previously uninsured individuals who have signed up, 68% are receiving free or subsidized coverage.
Many of these people aren't even citizens of Massachusetts. A recent report from the Massachusetts Inspector General found that state agencies have failed to implement controls to prevent ineligible people from making claims. In 2010 millions of dollars were spent on medical services for individuals from 48 other states and several foreign countries.
Despite the expansion of insurance coverage, people are continuing to seek routine medical care in expensive emergency rooms. Emergency room visits climbed 9%--or 3 million visits--between 2004 and 2008. The bill for uncompensated care has exceeded $400 million.
That's only the tip of the RomneyCare cost iceberg. Originally projected to cost $1.8 billion this year, the reform effort is now expected to exceed those estimates by $150 million. An analysis from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation found that state spending on health care reform grew from $1.04 billion in 2006 to about $1.75 billion in 2010. Over the next 10 years, RomneyCare will likely cost $2 billion more than predicted.
Massachusetts taxpayers are not only footing the bill for all this new public spending--they're also facing higher rates for private coverage. A 2010 study published in the Forum for Health Economics & Policy found that health insurance premiums in Massachusetts were increasing at a rate 3.7% slower than the national average prior to the implementation of RomneyCare. Post-overhaul, they're increasing 5.8% faster. Annual premium hikes in the state have averaged 7.5% since 2000.
The average employer-sponsored family health plan costs nearly $14,000. That's higher than anywhere else in the nation.
Massachusetts businesses have felt the sting of rising health care costs too. They've had to shoulder an additional $750 million in costs since reform began to insure more workers and dependents. Massachusetts retailers report that their health insurance costs have risen 15% per year since 2006.
Bay State small-business owners like Donna Donovan say that the law has not helped them. Her small technology company has seen its monthly individual employee premiums almost double, from $500 soon after the law was signed to $992.
As health costs have risen public approval of the law has dwindled. A poll by Suffolk University found that 49% of state residents do not think that RomneyCare has been beneficial. That represents a 20% drop since the law passed in 2006. A mere 38% felt the law was helping.
Over the past five years, Massachusetts has spent billions expanding access to coverage--but has little to show for its efforts. ObamaCare has the country positioned to repeat the Bay State's mistakes--many more times over.