Health care craziness; beam me up

None of it makes any sense.

The Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, oversaw as governor of Massachusetts the approval of the most comprehensive health insurance program found in any state this side of Europe. It is a success story, with a recent poll showing 62 percent of state residents backing it. It is hard to find more than 60 percent of American citizens anywhere agreeing on anything.

Only about 5 percent of Massachusetts citizens do not have health insurance coverage, in part because they face paying a penalty, up to $1260, if they don't get it - in other words, an individual mandate. That percentage of uninsured is by the far the lowest in the country. People are no longer going to emergency rooms to get routine care in the Bay State, saving millions of dollars.

State health officials also point to what they say are increases in mammograms, colon cancer screenings and prenatal care visits and a 150,000-person reduction in the number of smokers after the state expanded coverage for smoking cessation programs.

It is the type success story that governors who want to be president normally run on. It was a program so successful at using the private insurance market to obtain near universal health care coverage that Democrats in Washington adopted it as the alternative to socializing the system - Medicare for all. It was the kind of proposal many expected to attract moderate and Republican support.

Of course, we all know how that turned out. Republicans would not provide President Obama one single vote for the plan. Now Romney is running on a vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act - the federal version of his own Massachusetts' Romneycare - and Romney dare not mention the successful program he helped create.

Meanwhile President Obama, who as a candidate for that office was against the individual mandate, agreed to adopt it in expectation of getting those moderate and, yes, Republican votes. Conservatives now characterize his plan and that of his fellow Democrats to implement an individual mandate as a furtive attempt to strip away all vestiges of personal liberty and hand the colonies back to the British. No, really, I heard ultraconservative radio blatherer Michael Savage explain it. (Obama's enabler is, of course, none other than conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, a judicial Manchurian Candidate.)

But there is more.

The states where the Affordable Care Act enjoys its greatest support are those states where uninsured people are not such a major issue. Places such as Hawaii, where "only" 8 percent of the citizens are uninsured, Vermont at 9 percent, and Connecticut and Pennsylvania at 11 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And where is the opposition strongest to the law intended to provide health coverage to all? Why, in the places where you find the largest numbers of people without health insurance, of course, including states like Mississippi and South Carolina, where 19 percent of the people are uninsured, Florida with 21 percent, Georgia with 20 percent and Texas where a scandalous one out of four citizens have no health insurance.

It's like one of those parallel universe planets that the Star Trek crew would occasionally stumble upon, stuck in another dimension where everything is backward.

The guy who proved the individual mandate works is now against it. The guy who was against the individual mandate has placed his presidency at risk to fight for it. The conservative chief justice, once hailed by fellow conservatives because of his respect for judicial restraint, is now lambasted by them for practicing it. People in states who should be lining up to fight for the health care plan line up instead to defeat the president who helped pass it. Meanwhile states where lack of insurance is not such a big problem are Obama's biggest supporters.

I wonder if the Mayan calendar explains any of this?

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.


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