Romney, Newt and Mandates Sitting in A Tree
Newt has constantly denied that he once supported Mitt Romney's health insurance mandate in Massachusetts, but the wayback machine has something else to say about that. Here's a letter written by Newt in April of 2006:
The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.
We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans. Individuals without coverage often do not receive quality medical attention on par with those who do have insurance. We also believe strongly that personal responsibility is vital to creating a 21st Century Intelligent Health System. Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers.
The Romney plan attempts to bring everyone into the system. The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own. We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan. Under the new bill, Massachusetts residents earning more than 300% of the federal poverty level (approximately $30,000 for an individual) will not be eligible for any subsidies. State House officials had originally promised that there would be new plans available at about $200 a month, but industry experts are now predicting that the cheapest plan will likely cost at least $325 a month. This estimate totals about $4000 per year, or about 1/5 of a $30,000 annual take-home income.
While in theory the plan should be affordable if the whole state contributes to the cost, the reality is that Massachusetts has an exhaustive list of health coverage regulations prohibiting insurers from offering more basic, pared-down policies with higher deductibles. (This is yet another reminder that America must establish a cross-state insurance market that gives individuals the freedom to shop for insurance plans in states other than their own.)
In our estimation, Massachusetts residents earning little more than $30,000 a year are in jeopardy of being priced out of the system. In the event that this occurs, Governor Romney will be in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Mike Dukakis, whose 1988 health plan was hailed as a save-all but eventually collapsed when poorly-devised payment structures created a malaise of unfulfilled promises. We propose that a more realistic approach might be to limit the mandate to those individuals earning upwards of $54,000 per year.
While the Commonwealth’s plan will naturally endure tremendous scrutiny from those who assert that the law will not work as intended, Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system. I hope that Massachusetts’ initiative to provide affordable, quality health insurance for all continues to ignite even more debate around the subject of how to best address our nation’s uninsured crisis and the critical problems within the health system at large.
Not only did Newt support the mandate, but it sure sounds like he was pushing for subsidies to be offered to those making more than even the Affordable Care Act offers. If you go to the Kaiser Foundation's health reform subsidy calculator, you see that a single person stops getting government subsidies once their yearly salary hits around $36,500.
So knowing those numbers, let's break out the calculator and figure out where subsidies would stop under what Newt wanted. $54,000 is about 550% of the 2006 FPL. 550% of the 2011 FPL would be $59,895. By 2014 it would be into the $60,000 range. That is a lot more giving than the current plan that Republicans decry as "socialism" today.
Now I want to clarify that I'm not so unreasonable that I can't believe someone won't change their mind. The problem is that Newt hasn't said he has changed his mind. Instead Newt has been out there denying that he ever supported a mandate. Now we see that isn't the case.
So how is the GOP going to stomach having their two front runners previously showing enthusiastic support for the one main issue that Republicans are against? Even more interesting is how are these individuals going to be able to stand up to President Obama in a debate over the health care bill?
A lot of people are looking towards the Supreme Court's decision on the law this summer and many are predicting that if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional that it could hurt President Obama. I'm not entirely sure now considering the man President Obama will be facing in the general most likely supported this same law previously. Many on the right will point to such a decision as an "overreach of government", yet that is an overreach that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich previously supported. It really makes it hard for the likely GOP nominee to talk their way out of it, though Romney has a better chance than Newt.
(cross-posted at IntoxiNation)