The Washington Post has an interesting article on the derivation of health care plans that I was not aware of.
Instead of engaging in a debate on the merits of her proposal, the Republican candidates eagerly rushed to attack it as rampaging big government. It is one more example of why campaigns have left so many Americans disillusioned with the political process.
Romney above all others in the GOP field should have used more caution in the way he responded, given his own admirable record on health care in Massachusetts — a record that he has decided to run away from rather than embrace.
The reason Romney is more vulnerable in the way he responded is that, in broad strokes, what Clinton proposed on Monday bears a striking resemblance to the plan he proposed and then negotiated through the Massachusetts legislature when he was governor. The plan’s passage was one of the most acclaimed achievements of his term in office.
Both plans call for an individual mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance. Both feature subsidies to help low income families pay for that insurance. Both create pooling mechanisms to help make insurance more affordable. Both impose a tax on large companies that do not provide health insurance to their workers.
Clinton proposed no new government entities to administer the plan, although her aides acknowledge that some additional people would have to be hired within the existing bureaucratic structure to handle some aspects of it. The Massachusetts plan actually did create a new regulatory agency, although it is a fairly lean and not very costly addition to the state bureaucracy.
There are differences in some details of the two plans — the subsidies available for purchasing health care, the size of the tax on big companies that don’t offer insurance, the scope of the basic benefits package, the tax credits offered to small businesses to provide insurance. But as Jonathan Gruber, an economist at MIT, told me today, the two plans are “very, very similar.”
Gruber advised Romney as governor in the development of the Massachusetts plan and now is a member of a board overseeing its implementation. He said Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards consulted him as they were preparing their proposals this year.
Gruber said what Clinton proposed is far different from the plan that never came to a vote in Congress in 1994. He is dismayed by Romney’s response and what he called “misleading Republican rhetoric” to the Clinton plan.
“Romney deserves the credit for what he did in Massachusetts,” Gruber said. “He provided the intellectual leadership for much of what is going on. He should be basking in his glory and instead he’s running away from it, and I’m very disappointed.”
Who woulda thought? Maybe he is just shy.