Read as much as you want on BostonGlobe.com, anywhere and anytime, for just 99¢.

Editorial

In his attacks on ‘RomneyCare,’ Santorum paints a false picture

THE MASSACHUSETTS health plan is a work in progress. It has brought about major improvements in the coverage of citizens, without unduly raising costs. It’s popular with Bay State residents, and has been workable for Bay State employers. But now, while officials grapple with new proposals to reduce insurance premiums, this year’s Republican presidential candidates are flooding the airwaves with bogus assertions about Massachusetts’ “RomneyCare’’ health plan.

Because RomneyCare was the model for ObamaCare, Mitt Romney’s rivals are intent on discrediting it. To listen to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the law has “blown a hole in the budget.’’ Further, he asserts that insurance premiums in Massachusetts are the highest in the nation. And that rather than carrying health care coverage, many people are choosing instead to pay the penalty assessed for failing to purchase it.

Continue reading below

Let’s start with budgetary effects. Yes, the law has added costs to the state budget, but those cost haven’t been back-breaking. In 2009, the business-supported Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said the statute had increased net state spending on health care by $350 million a year, which accounted for about 1.2 percent of the state budget. For fiscal year 2011, says foundation president Michael Widmer, the comparable figure is $440 million, or about 1.4 percent of the budget.

Nor are our premiums the nation’s highest. They were in 2008 and 2009, but in 2010, average family-plan premiums were only ninth highest. Some of that less rapid growth in premiums probably results from the selection of less generous plans. Still, it’s notable that seven other states, including neighboring New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, plus the District of Columbia, have seen their premiums overtake ours.

Nor are we seeing large numbers deciding to pay the state penalty rather than carry coverage. From 2007 to 2009, the latest year for which information is available, the number of filers subject to the penalty for failure to carry insurance declined from 67,000 to 48,000, or about 1.2 percent of filers. That’s hardly an epidemic of people opting out of coverage. Nor, for that matter, are firms dropping coverage. Fully 91 percent of adults polled this fall in the Massachusetts Health Reform Survey, conducted annually by the Urban Institute, said their firms offered health care to qualifying employees.

That’s not to say the law is an unqualified success. In the aforementioned survey, about 14 percent said they had not gotten needed care because of costs in the last 12 months. That’s still lower than before the law was passed, but it does represent a little lost ground over the last two years. Still, a significant portion of that unmet need was for dental care, which generally isn’t covered by regular health insurance or the state-subsidized plans.

The law has not solved all problems with health care in Massachusetts. Everyone acknowledges that cost containment is the next big task - and that, for the statute to be a long-term success, that effort must bear fruit. Overall, however, health care reform has worked reasonably well - which is probably why almost two-thirds of Massachusetts adults surveyed last year still support it.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com