The Health Care Story Romney Won’t Tell

The Health Care Story Romney Won’t Tell

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It’s too bad former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney doesn’t want to talk about his state’s health care reform legislation on the campaign trail. If he did, he’d have a pretty good story to tell.

The reform plan, which President Obama used as a model for the national reform, lifted the number of insured residents in the Bay State from 86.6 percent in 2006 to 94.2 percent in 2010, according to a new study published today by Health Affairs. 

An expansion of public programs didn’t account for the gains. The number of people with employer-based coverage rose to 68 percent of the adult population in 2010 from 64.4 percent four years earlier. This is exactly the opposite of what many business groups are claiming will happen after the national reform goes into effect in 2014.

Moreover, out-of-pocket expenses declined for the average beneficiary. The number of people reporting they paid 10 percent of their family income on health care fell from 9.8 percent to 6.1 percent over the four years. Again, early fears that the Massachusetts reform would lead to a major shift in costs to consumers have not panned out.

However, the out-of-paycheck share of insurance premiums for family coverage did rise 10.1 percent over the period. But even that is pretty good news. The 2 ½%-a-year average increase is significantly below the rest of the nation’s rise in insurance costs. Still, the authors of the study concluded that “affordability of health care remains a challenge as the Bay State, like the rest of the nation, continues to struggle with rising health care costs.”

True enough. But the state is doing much better than average in terms of affordability. And it leads the nation in terms of access to insured care for its citizens.

Romney says every state should have a choice in how it tackles the problem of insuring the uninsured while lowering costs. If pressed for a good example of what works and what doesn’t, he might want to point to his own handiwork.

spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, economics writer and investigative business reporter for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. He is the author of the 2004 book, The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs.