Romney’s Massachusetts Health Care Reform: Socialism via the Back Door or a Promising Conservative Approach?

Sally Pipes of the conservative Pacific Research Institute and Ed Haislmaier of the conservative Heritage Foundation (also of our board of directors) are duking it out on National Review Online over Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s health care plan.

Sally dislikes it; Ed defends it.

Says Sally:

…Romney’s foray into health policy betrays a fallacious assumption that should not go uncorrected. Conservatives who believe in free markets simply cannot accept the rhetoric equating morality and compassion with universal third-party health insurance coverage. In the United States, we have already achieved universal access to health care through a variety of public and private systems – often derided as a “patchwork system” by those who long for a single statist solution – through private insurance, public insurance, publicly funded free health care clinics, and uncompensated care at hospitals and doctors’ offices. Americans without health insurance consume, on average, $1,253 a year in health care services, with the bulk of the bill picked up by someone else.

Accepting that everyone living in the United States needs formal third-party coverage will inevitably lead to government health care…

Rebuts Ed:

Sally Pipes roundly trashes Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s health plan. However, her “just say no” critique reveals a near complete misunderstanding of the governor’s innovative approach.

In reality, those who want to create a consumer-based health system and deregulate health insurance should view Romney’s plan as one of the most promising strategies out there…

…Romney’s health-insurance exchange… would be a single place where a small employer could send its workers to buy coverage, paid for with a defined contribution from the employer. For workers, it would be a “marketplace” in which to choose the plans that best suited them and which they could keep as they moved from job to job. Furthermore, the exchange is designed to ensure that premium payments by both employers and workers can be made on a pre-tax basis.

Such an exchange offers numerous advantages. For example, a two-earner couple could combine contributions from their respective employers to buy and keep the plan they want, instead of being forced to choose one employer’s plan while forgoing the subsidy offered by the other employer. Similarly, a worker with two part-time jobs could combine pro-rated contributions from each employer to buy coverage, while the government would have a single place to send subsidies for those who need extra help.

In short, the exchange is designed to work around the limitations of current federal law to achieve, in a single state, the basic objectives of conservative health reform – consumer choice of plans, true coverage portability, and the functional equivalent of individual health-insurance tax credits to help pay for coverage…

Given that Mitt Romney may be running for president, the Pipes-Haislmaier debate is one voters — especially GOP primary voters — should read and ponder.

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