Former Massachusetts Governor and probable GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has been criticized for the health care plan he enacted during his gubernatorial tenure. Many critics said his plan, which required Bay State residents to purchase some level of health insurance, reeks of socialism and is a precursor to Obamacare. During a presentation in Michigan yesterday Romney sought, with some success, to dispel this criticism.
Political leaders sometimes must seek to enact policy within an undesirable political environment. In Romney's case, that involved working with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. He could have decided to be a political coward and take a pass on substantively addressing this critically important issue, but he demonstrated real courage by constructively attempting to address rising health care costs. The Constitution's 10th Amendment gives states the right to choose legislation and policies that may not be acceptable nationally but which might be plausible within state boundaries. This version of federalism has been followed by American political leaders of all ideological hues and Romney was consistent in seeking to promote a version of health care cost control within conservative parameters while dealing with an overwhelmingly leftist legislature.
The U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause should prohibit the federal government from requiring citizens to buy specific products or services. Even the strongest critics of Obamacare, a category in which I include myself, cannot deny the reality that uninsured Americans are key factors in driving up health care costs. Romney's Massachusetts experiment, flawed though it has proven to be, at least sought to expand health insurance coverage. To his credit, Romney has said that the Massachusetts program was only for statewide consumption and never intended for national application. He correctly recognizes that states should have the freedom to determine the best health care policies for its citizens and has said that he would give all 50 states a waiver from Obamacare if he becomes President. Conservative critics of this plan should also remember that this plan was at least partially crafted by the Heritage Foundation. Romney also correctly recognizes that effective health care policy must include coverage of preexisting conditions, portability, the ability to buy health insurance across state lines, and the imperative of tort reform to reduce malpractice insurance costs. It may be desirable to not legally require individuals to purchase health insurance as a matter of rhetorical constitutional purity, but it is absolute personal and societal economic folly not to have some kind of health insurance coverage for yourself and your family.
As conservatives we should quit whining about compatriots such as Romney who seek to expand insurance coverage and moan about it being socialism. We need to get off our sanctimonious posteriors, and should seek to present, develop, and apply constructive alternatives such as Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan instead of mouthing off about Obamacare. We must offer and demonstrate that our policies offer better quality and lower cost health care for Americans regardless of their economic status or political position. We must present policies that make it easier for individuals and businesses to purchase and offer flexible health insurance access and coverage.