Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The news that will doom Mitt Romney

How ironic it is that one of the more promising GOP candidates for the presidency, Mitt Romney, is going to be sunk by the policy that he was so proud of - the bipartisan health care reform that has come to be known as Romneycare. A new survey of medical care in Massachusetts, as the WSJ reports, is full of bad news for both Romney and ultimately for Obama.
A new survey released yesterday by the Massachusetts Medical Society reveals that fewer than half of the state's primary care practices are accepting new patients, down from 70% in 2007, before former Governor Mitt Romney's health-care plan came online. The average wait time for a routine checkup with an internist is 48 days. It takes 43 days to secure an appointment with a gastroenterologist for chronic heartburn, up from 36 last year, and 41 days to see an OB/GYN, up from 34 last year.
This new report will be come nightly reading for Romeny's GOP competitors in the nomination battle. There is no answer that he can give to explain away such facts. However, these data will also serve as a bludgeon for President Obama's health care reforms so, as Obama has himself said, so much of Obamacare is modeled on Romneycare. Romney's Republican foes will be able to strike constant bank shots by using the results of Romneycare to attack Mitt Romney and then swivel to continue the attack on Obama. Every dismal result of Romneycare is a preview of what Obama is bringing to the rest of the country.
None of this is surprising, though it does dismantle the liberal nostrum that a new entitlement will somehow reduce health spending. When government subsidizes something, you get more of it, which means higher demand for insurance and health-care services. Combined with insurance regulations that suppress innovation and competition, this reality helps explain why Massachusetts premiums are among the highest in the U.S. The current physician shortage was inevitable without new doctors.

Massachusetts health regulators also estimate that emergency room visits jumped 9% between 2004 and 2008, in part due to the lack of routine access to providers. The Romney-Obama theory was that if everyone is insured by the government, costs would fall by squeezing out uncompensated care. Yet emergency medicine accounts for only 2% of all national health spending.

Another notable finding in the Medical Society survey is the provider flight from government health care. Merely 43% of internists and 56% of family physicians accept Commonwealth Care, the heavily subsidized middle-class insurance program. The same respective figures are 53% and 62% for price-controlled Medicaid. Government health insurance may be great, but not if it can't buy actual health care.

The Medical Society also finds "a continued deterioration of the practice environment for physicians in Massachusetts." Perhaps you should book your checkups now, in advance of the national sequel.
I have never seen a clear path for Mitt Romney to the nomination given his history of health care in Massachusetts. He has no answer to such attacks. However, his mere presence in debates will provide his GOP opponents with a rich target environment to attack Obamacare. That's not good news for President Obama but it is even worse news for Mitt Romney because the audience for such attacks is much more receptive to such factual arguments than the general population. Romney might have been a better competitor for Barack Obama in 2008 than John McCain though I don't think any GOP nominee would have won that year. Without Romneycare, he might have been one of the stronger candidates in 2012. But with Romneycare on his resumé, he is doomed. He should save himself money, time, and energy and just bow out now.