There will be one glaring issue in the upcoming 2012 presidential election: healthcare reform. According to the latest Real Clear Politics poll - and almost every other poll out there - Mitt Romney will be the one to take on Obama come November 2012, and there couldn't be a more fitting match for such a prevalent issue.
In 2006 Romney achieved the passage of his bill for universal health coverage in Massachusetts while serving as governor. His plan - commonly referred to as Romneycare - included subsidies, an exchange, and a mandate, in its most basic form. Subsidies would be given to the poor and uninsured to enable them to become insured; an exchange would be created to help individuals buy insurance apart from companies and groups; and an individual mandate that everyone buy insurance as a part of their personal responsibility as a citizen of the state was instated.
"It's a Republican way of reforming the market," Romney said after signing his healthcare bill on 12 April 2006. "Because, let me tell you, having 30 million people in this country without health insurance and having those people show up when they get sick, and expect someone else to pay, that's a Democratic approach. That's the wrong way. The Republican approach is to say, 'You know what? Everybody should have insurance. They should pay what they can afford to pay. If they need help, we will be there to help them, but no more free rides.'"
Obama came into office in 2008 with healthcare reform at the top of his agenda. He immediately put his plan into action, working with several of the Democrats from Romney's team, and using the 2006 healthcare bill as a model for the national system.
What was once Romney's most outstanding accomplishment has now become a source of shame to many in the Republican party. To think a Republican's bill laid the blueprints for what has become Obamacare is many conservatives' worst nightmare.
While the bills are similar, there are some fundamental differences. Romney's plan is funded by revenue from the federal government and funds that were being used to reimburse hospitals for giving free care to the uninsured while Obama's will be funded by new taxes and savings from Medicare cuts. Romney's bill is 70 pages and Obama's is 2,000. There have to be a few other things in that extra 1,930 pages.
The biggest - and perhaps the most overlooked - difference is the fact that Romney's plan is for a single state and Obama's includes an entire nation.As Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, put it:
"Just because something works well on the state level doesn't necessarily mean it will work on the federal level. A family of three has different requirements than a family of 300. Or 3,000. Or 3 million. You get the picture."
Romney has defended his bill using the same argument, arguing:
"Our plan was a state solution to a state problem, and [Obama's health law] is a power grab by the federal government to put in a one-size-fits-all plan across the nation."
Scott W. Atlas, a professor at Stanford University Medical Center, gave Real Clear Politics six reasons why this plan for healthcare wouldn't work on the national level. Atlas says Obamacare will result in less access to timely health care, less access to state-of-the-art drugs proven to cure serious diseases, less access to modern medical technology, less choice of doctor and treatment, less choice in health insurance coverage, and less access to leading innovators in health care.
Some of these problems are already surfacing in Massachusetts. A recent Boston Globe article revealed that patients in Massachusetts are facing up to 48 day waits to see a doctor for a "non-urgent medical issue." They also reported that many doctors are no longer accepting new patients. Many believe this is a reflection of the inaccessibility to come on the national level with Obamacare.
According to a recent poll of Massachusetts registered voters conducted by Suffolk University in Boston, Mass., 49 per cent answered "no" when asked if they thought healthcare in Massachusetts was working. When asked if they thought Romney's role in healthcare would help or hurt his presidential campaign, 54 per cent answered "hurt."
Approval for Obamacare is falling as well. According to the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, 54 per cent of likely US voters favour repeal of Obamacare, while only 35 per cent want it to stay. 46 per cent are confidence that the law will be repealed, while 63 per cent of US citizens consider this issue to be "very important" in their voting decision.
As the election draws closer, platforms may change. Will Obama offer concessions to anti-Obamacare voters, or will repeal only come from the election of a new president? Will Romney continue to defend his state reform while condemning it at the national level, or will he be forced to renounce both in an effort to keep himself in the running for the presidency? Someone will have to step up and address the concerns of the majority. Which of American's two biggest healthcare reformers will it be?