Mitt's Missed Opportunity

Former governor Mitt Romney hoped his major speech in Ann Arbor on Thursday would let him move on from persistent questions about health care, but judging from reports, blogs, editorials, and a National Review Online poll, it’s clear he has much more to do: By a margin of more than seven to one, NRO readers said they thought the speech hurt him.

It’s hard to hate ObamaCare and love RomneyCare. The most despised part of the president’s unpopular health overhaul law is the mandate that everyone buy government-approved health insurance. Romney continued to defend his support for the individual mandate as right for Massachusetts but wrong for the country.

Romney insists the mandate was necessary to address the “free-rider” problem, even though evidence shows this represents only about one percent of overall health spending. Yet the mandate opens the door to the armies of regulators and massive new spending that define ObamaCare.

And the Massachusetts health overhaul certainly didn’t fix the cost problem. The Bay State still has the highest health insurance premiums in the country. For small employers, the rise is about 14 percent beyond those in the rest of the nation.

Patients are frustrated, too. A recent survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society reveals that fewer than half of the state’s primary care practices are accepting new patients, and the average wait time to get an appointment with an internist is 48 days. The result: The use of hospital emergency rooms in Massachusetts by people seeking routine care has increased. This was another problem RomneyCare was supposed to fix.

The five-point plan that Gov. Romney outlined to structure the health reform initiative he would undertake as president is sound and based upon solid principles. But it’s hard to see how voters will give him a chance unless he admits his error with the health plan he developed for Massachusetts.

“A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was just a bone-headed idea and I should just admit it,” Romney said yesterday. “There’s only one problem with that: It wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believe was right for the people of my state.”

But voters across the country will ask, If mandated insurance coverage was right for Massachusetts, how can it be so wrong for the country?

Romney was emphatic about calling for repeal of ObamaCare and said he will issue an executive order paving the way for the states to get a waiver from the health overhaul law while Congress works to repeal it.

But you can’t use an executive order to wipe out two massive new federal entitlement programs, 159 new programs and bureaucracies, $500 billion in new and higher taxes, a vast expansion of Medicaid, and federal mandates on individuals, businesses, and the states. Waivers are not a solution.

In a political debate, President Obama would be sure to point out that there is little contrast between Romney’s call for these initial waivers for the states and the president’s call to give states an early waiver to implement ObamaCare their own way.

Voters needed to see more contrast yesterday, and they will demand it in the primary battles.

Earlier this year, the Republican House passed a repeal bill within a few weeks of taking power. If there were a majority in the Senate supporting repeal, then a new president could have a bill to sign on his desk within a month or two of taking office.

Full repeal is the only solution.


Grace-Marie Turner on the Brian Thomas Morning Show

In this radio interview, Grace-Marie discusses the health overhaul law with host Brian Thomas.
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On Medicare, the Right Role for Congress

Grace-Marie Turner
Richmond Times-Dispatch, 05/11/11

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a powerful new body established by President Obama’s health care law, is at the center of the conflict between two worldviews. Do we entrust individuals with the decisions for their own care? Or do we entrust those decisions to “experts” in Washington? IPAB would give 15 unelected bureaucrats unprecedented power over hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare spending, but the Constitution gives the power of the purse to Congress. IPAB would turn this principle on its head. And Obama has proposed giving IPAB new powers to sequester congressionally authorized funds. If Congress is ready to reassert its constitutional responsibilities, it will need a serious plan to reform entitlement spending. Medicare alone is facing $30 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Fortunately, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has provided a comprehensive plan for doing just that.

Read More »

Misguided on Medicaid

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 05/10/11

A new study released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, with researchers from the Urban Institute, is highly critical of a plan in the House 2012 Budget Resolution that would give states much greater flexibility in running their Medicaid programs through block grants. The study concludes that if ObamaCare were repealed and states were given block grants for Medicaid, state spending would increase between 45 and 71 percent to offset the loss of federal dollars or 44 million people would be without coverage as a result of the changes. But the Kaiser report gives virtually no consideration to the important efficiencies that could be gained by better managing and coordinating care for the 20 percent of patients who consume 80 percent or more of Medicaid’s resources. States closer to their citizens have demonstrated in Rhode Island, Vermont, and elsewhere that significant improvements in care are possible while saving taxpayers money if the federal government will allow them the freedom to make their programs more efficient.

Read More »

Doctors, Not Politicians, Should Decide

Grace-Marie Turner
The Enterprise Blog, 05/10/11

In Alex Brill’s paper on “Overspending on Multi-Source Drugs in Medicaid,” he writes about “the potential savings that could have been achieved had Medicaid consistently used the lower-cost version” of 20 multi-source drugs. While there is little or no debate about the need to control Medicaid spending, Brill’s recommendations could lead legislators to conclude that they should tighten their formularies further, leading to adverse results for patients. Brill’s study says that with the immunosuppressant Cellcept, doctors substitute a generic only 44 percent of the time and 68 percent of the time with the anticonvulsant Keppra. Yet many other drugs on his list have substitution rates in the 90 percentile. Clearly doctors are making decisions here about when a generic is appropriate and when it is not. The message policy makers surely will hear from Brill’s paper is to strongly encourage the use of generics over brand-name drugs. But the longer-term costs, both to patients and the system, could be much higher when politicians, not doctors, are making decisions about patient care.

Read More »

The Coming Obamacare Train Wreck

Grace-Marie Turner
The Foundry, 05/09/11

ObamaCare may be fading from the headlines, but the health law still is steaming toward us like a freight train. The law is very much in force, steaming toward us with hundreds of billions of dollars in new and higher taxes, job-killing mandates on businesses, crushing costs for the states, and creation of two massive new entitlement programs. The cost of this new law will be astronomical and will crush not only our health sector but our economy and will rob us of precious freedom. The most important thing is for people to stay informed about what’s in this law and the impact that it will have on all of us as families, young people, seniors, employers, employees, doctors, patients, taxpayers, and citizens. That’s why we wrote our book, Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America. The president hopes you won’t read this book so you won’t know what’s in the law. But all of us HAVE to know what is coming because that is the only way to derail this train wreck that is coming in a few short years!

Read More »

Missed Hit by Mitt

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 05/12/11

Former governor Mitt Romney may very well have hoped he could put health care behind him with his major speech in Ann Arbor, but it’s clear he still has a lot of work to do.

Read More »


Taking the Individual Mandate Off Life Support
Tom Miller, The Weekly Standard: The Blog, 05/13/11

Don’t Let Feds Stifle Next Medical Revolution
Joel White, The Washington Times, 04/21/11

Employers Wary of Health Reform Costs and Hassles
Lockton Benefit Group, 04/05/11

2011 Milliman Medical Index: Healthcare Costs for American Families Double in Less Than Nine Years
Lorraine Mayne, Chris Girod, and Scott Weltz, Milliman Inc., 05/11/11

Obama Plan for Health Care Quality Dealt a Setback
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, 05/11/11

Kathleen Sebelius’s Outrageous Claim That Cancer Patients Would ‘Die Sooner’ Under the GOP Medicare Plan
Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post: The Fact Checker, 05/09/11

Ordering Disorder
Sally Satel, The New Republic, 05/12/11


The State Flexibility Act of 2011: Why Washington Must Act To Provide States With Flexibility To Manage Their Medicaid Programs
A Joint Committee Review of States’ Perspectives, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Senate Finance Committee, 05/03/11

Survey: ERs Are Busier, Despite State Law
Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe: White Coat Notes, 04/28/11

New Health Care Law Cripples State Budgets
Sally C. Pipes,, 05/09/11

2011 Patient Access to Health Care Study: A Survey of Massachusetts Physicians’ Offices
Massachusetts Medical Society, 05/09/11

The Massachusetts Medical Society 2011 Physician Practice Environment Index Report
Massachusetts Medical Society, 05/05/11


A Dutch Model for Medicare
Richard B. Saltman, The Washington Post, 05/06/11

Solving the National Medicaid Crisis
Brian Blase, The Heritage Foundation, 05/06/11

The Need to Move Beyond the Sustainable Growth Rate in Medicare: Testimony for the House Energy & Commerce Committee
Mark B. McClellan, Brookings Institution, 05/05/11

Mission Impossible: Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board
John R. Graham, Pacific Research Institute, 05/11/11


Forest Laboratories and the Facts
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, RealClearMarkets, 05/05/11


Shorter Lives, Less Prosperity: The Impact of Comparative Effectiveness Research on Health and Wealth
John Vernon, Ph.D. and Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, 05/11


Grace-Marie Turner on Varney & Co.
FOX Business Television Broadcast
Monday, May 16, 2011
10:30am EDT

The 2011 Medicare Trustees Report: The Baby Boomer Tsunami
American Enterprise Institute Event
Monday, May 16, 2011
9:15am – 11:15am
Washington, DC

How Should Washington Control Medicare Spending?
The Heritage Foundation Event
Thursday, May 19, 2011
11:00am – 12:00pm
Washington, DC

Keeping Coverage Continuous: Smoothing the Path between Medicaid and the Exchange
Alliance for Health Reform Briefing
Friday, May 20, 2011
12:15pm – 1:00pm
Washington, DC

America’s Small Business Summit 2011
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Event
May 23-25, 2011
Washington, DC
Grace-Marie Turner will participate in a debate on “Health Care a Year Later: Are You Feeling Any Better?” at 2:15pm on Monday, May 23.