Last night Jonathon Gruber, one of the major architects of Romneycare in Massachusetts and adviser to President Obama and Congress on the ACA, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and looked at the similarities in the roll out of Romneycare and Obamacare. It is a story which has not been told for good reason because it flies in the face of everything that the extreme right has been telling us about Obamacare and its inevitable failure.
Rachel began the segment by pointing out the fact that there was one failed effort to repeal the Massachusetts law, an effort that was half-hearted to say the least. Those who would repeal it could not stay focused enough to even gather the signatures required to get it on the ballot. Compare that to the 42 failed TEApublican repeal votes, the Tea Party government shut down, and the refusal of most red states to expand Medicaid. See the difference?
She discussed how unpopular Mitt Romney had become in the state by the time he left office and how his chosen successor Kerry Healy lost by 21 points to Deval Patrick. She also commented on how Patrick immediately rolled back many policies put in place by his predecessor but left Romneycare intact.
Then she moves on to tell us about the early days of Romneycare which was implemented in the same month Romney left office. In that month, the program enrolled 123 people and yet there were no taunts of ‘I told you so, I knew it would never work.’
In fact it took a full three years for the program to reach the level it has maintained since then, covering a full 97% of the state’s residents.
There was literally no press coverage of the fact that so few had signed up in the first month. In the second month 2,089 people were enrolled, nearly a 1,600% increase over the previous month and by the end of the third month more than 5,000 had enrolled with the increases continuing until nearly everyone in the state had insurance.
None of that is to say that there were no problems. The website did not work properly in the beginning (sound familiar?) and the law did require some tweaks. But they did not throw the baby out with the bath water, they kept at it until they got it right.
Massachusetts now has the highest rate of health insurance coverage in the nation and it is not only working, the people love it.
As Rachel notes, the blueprint for Obamacare was Romneycare. “The policies are almost identical,” she said, “What’s different is the politics.”
She does admit, “Objectively speaking, the Republican plan does work better. Any time your plan is nothing, any time your plan is no plan, your plan is to do nothing, that is always a much easier thing to do.”
If you compare the two plans and how well they began, one will find that Obamacare is actually rolling out much faster than in Massachusetts, five times faster. At this point in its life the Massachusetts plan had enrolled 0.3% of those targeted, while Obamacare has enrolled 1.5%.
Asked by Maddow if he thinks the law can work, Professor Gruber said, “I can think of no other law in the nation’s history where we have piloted it first in this way. And we piloted it first in Massachusetts and it worked and it’s the same basic structure and I think it will work and be successful. It won’t be exactly the same but it’s going to follow the same basic successful pattern as in Massachusetts. We just have to be patient and recognize it takes time.”
Going on, Gruber said that the goal is making sure that everyone, sick and healthy alike, have reasonably priced health insurance. “The Obamacare plan is the minimally disruptive way to get to that goal,” he said. “If you agree with that goal there is no way to get there that does less disruption than the Obamacare plan.”
Watch the entire segment in the video below.