ObamaCare more taxing than RomneyCare? Laws’ differences debated
President Obama’s camp chafes at the notion the health care law’s individual insurance mandate packs the threat of a tax. One way Democrats have been responding to to such criticisms is to point the finger at Mitt Romney and the health care law he signed as governor of Massachusetts.
“Let’s get down to the bottom line here: Mitt Romney is the ObamaCare daddy,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “He gave birth to this baby up in Massachusetts, and now he doesn’t recognize it.”
President Obama made the same argument while on a bus tour last week, saying, “when you hear all these folks saying, oh, no, no, this is a tax, this is a burden on middle-class families, let me tell you, we know because the guy I’m running against tried this in Massachusetts and it’s working just fine.”
Analysts, however, say there are huge differences between ObamaCare and RomneyCare, and the biggest relates to taxes.
The president has to raise a trillion dollars in revenues over the first 10 years, more in later years, to cover the cost of the federal health care law. The state law Romney signed didn’t raise taxes at all.
“Certainly the Obama plan that came out of Congress raised taxes significantly,” says Josh Archambault of Boston’s Pioneer Institute. “The Romney plan was not predicated on having to use tax money to be able to finance it.”
In fact, says Tevi Troy, a former Bush administration official, the Obama plan raised 21 taxes.
“Taxes on health care plans, health insurers, on medical device manufacturers. So he’s got a whole host of new taxes in order to make this thing appear deficit neutral,” Troy said.
Analysts say Massachusetts had 8 percent uninsured and that Romney focused only on fixing that, unlike ObamaCare.
“I think the biggest difference between the federal and the state health care laws is the scope and the financing of the two laws. The federal law tries to change the entire health care system in one bill,” Troy said.
However, Stan Dorn of the Urban Institute notes that Romney got financial help — from federal Medicaid money.
“The federal government provided Governor Romney with hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid matching funds, which is what he used to fund the proposal,” Dorn said. “And the federal government doesn’t have anyone else they can turn to for money, so they needed to raise the taxes.”
Others concede the state got Medicaid money to cover the costs of the uninsured. But instead of giving it to hospitals to pay unpaid bills the state gave individuals money to buy their own policies.
“Affordable insurance on their own,” Archambault said. “The federal approach simply put them on the public rolls, and as a result we don’t get near universal coverage.”
And Troy argues the lesson is that Obama tried to do too much at once. “When you try to do everything, you don’t accomplish much of anything other than causing greater confusion and perhaps even greater turmoil in the markets.”
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