Question: What do gay marriage, abortion rights and health care reform have in common?

Answer: They are all topics where former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has changed his tune in his run for the Presidency. As Health Care for All’s John McDonough blogs:

Had to happen, only a question of when and how much…[F]ormer Gov. and Republican Pres. candidate Mitt Romney is distancing himself from the April 2006 health reform law he signed and has bragged about all over the nation.

Last year’s development of the Massachusetts health care reform law was a real bipartisan effort. Governor Romney pulled a bit of a slimy move at the time by vetoing the provision that required larger employers to pay $295 per employee per year if they didn’t offer health insurance. He was sanctimonious about it at the time, knowing full well that the Democrat-dominated legislature would override the veto and improve the viability of the plan. Democrats took that move in stride, understanding why Romney wanted to position himself that way.

Romney also touted the prospect of $200 per month health care coverage for individuals, citing prototype plans he’d asked the state’s health insurers to create. When the actual bids came in around $380 per month, now ex-Governor Romney was quick to cast aspersions on the Democrats for screwing things up.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA, perhaps fearing it will be the next one on the receiving end of Romney’s bad-mouthing, said this week in the Boston Globe that the $200 per month plan was for real, though of course based on different assumptions than the $380 plan. BCBS MA’s CFO Allen Maltz was quoted extensively in the article. (I’ve met Mr. Maltz, and he is not the type to throw around numbers loosely!)

The state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, said that with more flexibility from the state, it could offer slimmer coverage for an average of $210 a month — near the price originally suggested by former governor Mitt Romney.

“If it’s buy or die, they could buy at $210 or $220,” said Allen Maltz, chief financial officer for Blue Cross. “It would be a comprehensive plan, covering hospital, office visits, prescription drugs. It wouldn’t eliminate categories of coverage.”

That plan, however, would not satisfy requirements proposed by the state board overseeing the law’s implementation because of the plan’s high deductible and out-of-pocket limits

Romney has positioned himself to take credit for the law if it works well, and to blame Democrats if it doesn’t.

Will the people buy it? As McDonough writes:

Romney is now irrelevant to the real work of implementing health reform. Thank goodness. And his comments should be understood as the dance presidential candidates need to perform to survive the primary process. But if he think he can completely separate himself from the reform structure he signed, he’s mistaken.

If Romney wins the Republican nomination I predict he’ll have something in common with Al Gore: a loss in his “home” state.

February 7, 2007

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *