Doesn’t Romney know that insurance policies with high deductibles and lots of coinsurance are already the norm? And he wants to tackle malpractice reform, limiting the right to bring a lawsuit? Doesn’t every Republican politico want to do that—even though the evidence shows that defensive medicine and malpractice suits contribute relatively little to the nation’s health care tab?
Instead of amplifying these points, some outlets decided to fact-check others he made, a trivial exercise that added little to the discussion that needs to happen as his campaign moves ahead. “There’s no government insurance program,” Romney said. Politico begged to differ, pushing out a story saying that Massachusetts does have a government-administered plan: Commonwealth Care, which is run by a state agency and supervises the subsidized coverage for low-income residents. Well, yes, that’s true, but Massachusetts health insurance is hardly a model of national health insurance programs like other developed nations have. Romney probably had that in mind when he made his comment. ABC News also tried to catch Romney when he said the law didn’t raise health care costs. While conceding that the “law itself didn’t put a major dent in the state’s budget,” ABC News said it “failed to curb overall costs for policyholders.” Was ABC News suggesting that Romney was lying or simply uttering a half truth? Things get tricky here.
There’s a lot for the press to examine as Romney’s campaign progresses. But the semantic details of whether the state’s program is government-run are a sideshow. The public needs to know if his “repeal and replace” proposals are really any different from any other Republican’s, and whether they will control costs in a way that will make both the Massachusetts law and the federal law sustainable for the long-haul. That’s the takeaway from Mitt Romney’s speech.