RomneyCare architect: Of course it's the same as ObamaCare

Well, Jonathan Gruber would know, wouldn’t he?  After all, he advised both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on health-care reform.  In an interview yesterday with Capital New York, Gruber vented his frustration with Romney, claiming that he’s lying about the differences between RomneyCare and ObamaCare:

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney’s attempt to distinguish between Obama’s bill and his own is disingenuous.

“The problem is there is no way to say that,” Gruber said. “Because they’re the same [expletive] bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.”

Not that Gruber is much happier with Newt Gingrich, either.  He claims that Gingrich backed the same kind of system in the past, as did the Heritage Foundation, only to abandon it for political reasons:

Gruber said Republicans were actually less opposed to the mandate, which is going to be under scrutiny by the court, than they were to other provisions of the health care bill, given that the mandate was an essentially conservative idea that had currency with conservative intellectuals in the early 1990s. I asked about the difference between this plan and the kind that was espoused by former House speaker Newt Gingrich back then (and, briefly, in May of this year).

“Zero difference,” he said. “This is, to my mind, the most blatantly obvious case of politics trumping policy I’ve ever seen in my life. Because this is an idea, that four or five years ago, Republicans were touting. A guy from the Heritage Foundation spoke at the bill signing in Massachusetts about how good this bill was.”

What “politics” does Gruber see at play?  He thinks that ObamaCare (and RomneyCare, for that matter) might be the “most important social policy” since Medicare in the 1960s, and that its success would make Barack Obama the next FDR.   But that assumes that the model will succeed; if RomneyCare is the test case, then we can almost assuredly say that it won’t.  Insurance premiums have skyrocketed, and the Massachusetts program runs deep into the red.  Democratic governor Deval Patrick demanded that the state legislature address the program’s exploding costs just four weeks ago.

Gruber also tells Capital NY that ObamaCare represents the last, best hope for a free-market solution to the uninsured, but ObamaCare is anything but a free-market solution.  The best hope for a free-market solution would be to get insurance companies out of the way of routine care altogether.  The problem of escalating costs comes in large part from consumers being shielded from price signals.  Insurance should cover the possibility of large losses, not routine wellness and maintenance procedures.  Getting to a retail climate would stimulate competition, encourage new providers to emerge, and allow for more innovation and improvement, just as it has in the areas that insurers won’t cover — elective plastic surgery and Lasik treatments.  Insurers could then price catastrophic coverage much more reasonably to get the uninsured by choice covered, and safety-net programs for the poor could deal with the truly needy.

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