By Mitt Romney
March 22, 2012
Friday is the second anniversary of Obamacare. It is past time to abolish the program, root and branch. The Supreme Court will soon have a crack at this; arguments about the program’s constitutionality open before it next week. But whatever the justices decide in what is certain to be a landmark decision, the case against Obamacare extends far beyond questions about its constitutionality. President Obama’s program is an unfolding disaster for the American economy, a budget-busting entitlement, and a dramatic new federal intrusion into our lives.
It is precisely for those reasons that I’ve opposed a one-size-fits-all health care plan for the entire nation. What we need is a free market, federalist approach to making quality, affordable health insurance available to every American. Each state should be allowed to pursue its own solution in this regard, instead of being dictated to by Washington.
But abolishing Obamacare will only be half the battle. Just as important is the question of what to put in its place. Instead of the massive new taxes, trillions of dollars in new spending, and top-down bureaucratic decrees of Obamacare, we need to limit Washington’s control by spurring competition, creating maximum flexibility and enhancing consumer choice.
I would begin by changing the tax code, which currently offers a subsidy for employers who purchase health insurance for their employees. This discriminates against individuals who want to buy insurance on their own. We should let individuals continue with the current arrangement if it suits their needs. But I would also offer a tax benefit for those who wish to purchase insurance outside their workplace.
A key question is how to provide care for the poor, the uninsured and the chronically ill. My program begins by taking seriously the words of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In line with the intentions of our Founding Fathers, I favor giving each of the 50 states the resources and the responsibility to craft the health care solutions that suit their citizens best.
When I was governor of Massachusetts, we instituted a plan that got our citizens insured without raising taxes and without a government takeover. Other states will choose to go in different directions. It is the genius of federalism that it encourages experimentation, with each state pursuing what works best for them. Obamacare’s disregard for this core aspect of U.S. tradition is one of its most egregious failings.
To the extent that we have any federal regulation, it should focus on helping markets work. Thus, to take one much discussed problem, individuals with pre-existing conditions who have maintained continuous health insurance coverage should be guaranteed the ability to retain coverage. Also, individuals are currently prohibited from purchasing health insurance across states lines, which reduces competition and makes many plans subject to expensive state benefit requirements. The federal government can open up these restricted markets. States could still regulate their insurance industries, but consumers across the U.S. would benefit from lower costs and greater choice.
Finally, we need to address out-of-control medical malpractice litigation, which is costly not only in direct terms, but also in its distortion of the way patient care is administered. We can start by capping non-economic damages, but the federal government should also encourage states to pursue additional reforms such as specialized health care courts or other alternatives for resolving conflicts.
The reforms I propose for the country could not be more different from Barack Obama’s. They entail no new taxes, no massive diversions of funds away from Medicare, no tax discrimination, and no new bureaucracies. At the same time, they increase consumer choice, lower health care costs, decrease government spending, and give states responsibility for dealing with the uninsured. Whatever the Supreme Court decides about the constitutionality of Obamacare, we already know that it is bad policy and wrong for America. Abolishing it and putting sensible changes in its place will be one of my highest priorities as president.