“Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.”
– Mitt Romney’s column in the Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2006
As the Republican Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney made a strong case for passing health care reform in his state. He explained the need to bring the uninsured into the health insurance pool to make it work effectively and affordably for everyone. His state legislature agreed and passed his reform proposal, helping establish the model for the bill President Obama just signed.
I agree with the Mitt Romney of 2006, and I’m excited about what the federal health care reform law means for my constituents.
I will no longer receive phone calls from desperate parents who can’t find an insurance company that will cover their kid’s pre-existing asthma, leukemia or other condition. I won’t have neighbors nervously knocking on my office door, explaining their insurance company dropped them just when they needed it most. Both of these practices will be prohibited starting this year.
Many of my constituents in their early 20s are juggling work and school and praying they don’t get sick or hurt. When they do get sick, they’re often more worried about the bills than their health, and too often they let their illnesses linger before getting help. When they finally go to the ER, you and I pay for it through our taxes. But now, starting this year, they can remain on their parents’ insurance.
Also this year, small businesses in my community will receive tax credits to make employee coverage more affordable. Insurance companies will no longer limit annual benefits. They will face greater oversight when they consider raising your premiums. By January, nearly three million seniors in Texas will have access to free preventive care.
Beyond this next year, many of the six million uninsured Texans
will have health insurance, improving their health and financial stability, and saving all of us money. Middle class and low-income Texans who don’t have insurance through their jobs may receive subsidies on a sliding scale based on their income. For example, a family of four making less than $88,000 would be eligible for assistance. Low-income individuals will now be eligible for Medicaid. If you want to know what’s in health care reform for you, take a look at this interactive tool
from the Washington Post
The new law will also help rein in the frightening long-term budget deficits that rising health care and entitlement costs will produce. According to the Congressional Budget Office
, the official non-partisan arbiter trusted by both parties, health care reform will reduce the deficit by a $138 billion over the next decade. It’s a good deal for our state budget, as well. The federal government will cover all of the new Medicaid costs the first few years. Starting in 2020, Texas will receive nine federal dollars
for every dollar we put in.
I will say I’m disappointed that the health care debate often turned ugly and personal. Congress could learn something from the way that Democrats and Republicans listen to each other and work together in the Texas Legislature, although we certainly have our moments as well.
Despite the bitterness in Washington, and frankly in many of our communities, the new health care reform law was a moderate soIution to a problem we could no longer ignore. Based on a proposal by national Republicans
in the 1990s and Romney’s efforts in Massachusetts, the legislation won the endorsement of doctors in the AMA, seniors in the AARP, and many people I’ve talked to in San Antonio. It keeps in place our basic health care system based on private doctors and private insurance. Unfortunately, as reported by conservatives such as David Frum
, a top advisor to President George W. Bush, Republican leaders in Washington made a strategic decision last year to fight the bill rather than negotiate.
While many Texans still have serious concerns about the law, I believe some of them will warm up to it as they learn more and move past the wild accusations about things like “death panels.” In fact, a Gallup poll
conducted shortly after the bill passed showed 49% of Americans supporting it, with 40% opposed. Further, many surveys -- such as this McClatchy
poll and page 3 of this CBS poll
-- showed that about one-third of opponents actually wanted the bill to go further.
Now that the bill has become law, and our constituents have so much to gain, I hope that our state leaders will stop their posturing and start figuring out how we can help Texans take advantage of the health care benefits now available to them.