Is health reform a “gift”?

Romney has blamed his failure on Obamacare, calling it a “gift” to minorities and young people. This is an astonishing shift from his perspective as Governor of Massachusetts where he championed health reform as a sensible policy move meant to reduce uncompensated care and require individuals to live up to a responsibility to buy health insurance, if they could afford it—and to give those that could not afford coverage help in paying for coverage.

If health reform is a “gift”, what about Medicare and Social Security? Are they “gifts” to seniors and the disabled?

Is any benefit received by individuals from the government a “gift” designed to sway elections? What about the tax code that allows wealthy Americans to pay a smaller proportion of their income in taxes than most of us?

Not Free: Health coverage is not free under Obamacare. A family making $25,000 or $35,000 would pay 2% of income, up to 9.5% of income, depending on income and family size. Mitt Romney’s income tax rate was not much higher than that (at least for the years we know about). At Mitt Romney’s income level, what would 2%  to 9.5% of income be? $274,000 to $1.3 million. Even the Romney’s might notice if health coverage cost them that much. As my colleague Anthony Wright so often says in this blog post, middle class families need the financial security of affordable health coverage. That is what Obamacare provides.
Big issues? Romney said he talked about “big issues”, including the military, foreign policy and a strong economy. Apparently health coverage for millions of Americans, and better health coverage for millions more in the form of contraceptives, preventive care and a floor for health benefits, are not “big issues”. Maybe decent health coverage is not a “big issue” for wealthy, older, white men who have always had the coverage they needed. But affordable health coverage is a real issue for women and children, for communities of color and low income Americans.

There is now an ample body of political science literature demonstrating what House Minority Leader Pelosi spoke to on her re-election as leader: the issues that are addressed by Congress (and state legislatures) change when women and people of color are elected. Health care, contraception, preventive care are rarely a priority when men like Romney are in charge.

Romney’s remarks remind us, as does the fight over the fiscal cliff, that the fight to protect health reform, Medicaid, and Medicare will not end so long as there are politicians who believe, as Romney apparently does, that those who depend on these programs are “takers” receiving “gifts”, rather than Americans who should get the health care they need when they need it.  

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.