Maybe that steelworker didn’t need Romneycare after all

August 9, 2012

Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Brian Rosman at Health Care for All Massachusetts e-mails about a correction to my post yesterday looking at what Romneycare would have done for an unemployed steelworker, featured in a Democratic Super PAC ad.

Romney press secretary Andrea Saul told Fox News that, had that man lived in Massachusetts, he would have gained coverage under the former governor's 2006 universal coverage law.

Rosman doesn't dispute that last part: He thinks that Joe Soptic, the steelworker in the ad, would indeed have had access to coverage. It just wouldn't be due to Romneycare. A number of other social safety net programs, that predated Romney's tenure as governor, likely would have covered him.

Massachusetts was among five that ended bans against pre-existing conditions in the mid-1990s, meaning that insurance companies could not have denied Soptic or his wife coverage. That year, the state also passed insurance reforms that limited how much more sick people could be charged than healthy subscribers.

Second, Rosman points to the state's Medical Security Program, created in 1988 under then-Gov. Michael Dukakis (D). That program, still in existence today, provides health care benefits to low- and moderate-income Massachusetts residents who are on unemployment.

"So the Romney spokesperson is right that the family would have been covered if they lived in Massachusetts," Rosman said, "But it would not have been thanks to RomneyCare, but policies put in place way before Romney became Governor."

It's worth adding that Romneycare might not have been the program that was responsible for access to health insurance, but it may certainly have played a role in affordability of coverage.

When unemployment checks end, so does eligibility for the Medical Security Program. Romneycare would ensure that a man like Soptic would continue to receive subsidies - if he and his wife earned less than $45,390 - to make health insurance more affordable. Health insurance also was really expensive prior to the law's enactment. In 2005, it cost $8,567 to buy a plan on the individual market.

The cost of insurance, due to the enactment of an individual mandate and a number of other insurance reforms, dropped to  $5,143 in 2007, just a year after Romneycare kicked in.

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Ezra Klein | August 9, 2012