Some years ago in 2006, Mitt Romney broke the mold of health insurance debate by pushing through legislation for a mandate in Massachusetts. If the best solution of a single payer system is politically unacceptable in America, this is the next-best way of bringing insurance to all citizens. The result shows this US state has the lowest number of citizens uninsured. In theory, this was a triumph and, if the political wind had not changed, it should have been followed with ease by the Federal Government. Except what had worked in Massachusetts was, apparently, not what the rest of America wanted. What went wrong and how has Massachusetts reacted?
When the debate was running the first time around, a GOP Governor was introducing a law approved in principle by his party. Indeed, he actively drew on the work of right-wing think tanks when drafting the bill. Since the only opposition likely to this law was going to come from the right, the bipartisan debate was very good-tempered and constructive. As we know, the law passed with some ease. But when President Obama tried to spread the gospel of the mandate to the rest of America, the tone of the rhetoric changed from constructive to aggressively negative. Instead of the President having the same bipartisan support as enjoyed by Governor Romney, he was faced by all-out opposition. This shift in the way the same two laws have been portrayed has left its mark on US politics. Now running in the Presidential race, Mitt Romney has defended the law as it applies in his own state, but campaigned on the basis he will repeal the mandate for all other states.
Why is Mitt Romney being careful? Because the mandate is massively popular in Massachusetts. People appreciate the health insurance benefits and, because of the mandate, the health insurance premium rates have stayed affordable. What’s not to like about a system that buys treatment for almost all citizens at a price everyone can afford? So he cannot reject his own law. He can only say he will not force other states to follow his example.