Mitt Romney, On 60 Minutes, Cites Emergency Room As Health Care Option For Uninsured

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Posted: 09/23/2012 10:12 pm EDT Updated: 09/23/2012 10:47 pm EDT

WASHINGTON — Downplaying the need for the government to ensure that every person has health insurance, Mitt Romney on Sunday suggested that emergency room care suffices as a substitute for the uninsured.

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance,” he said in an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”

This constitutes a dramatic reversal in position for Romney, who passed a universal health care law in Massachusetts, in part, to eliminate the costs incurred when the uninsured show up in emergency rooms for care. Indeed, in both his book and in high-profile interviews during the campaign, Romney has touted his achievement in stamping out these inefficiencies while arguing that the same thing should be done at the national level.

And while Romney refused to agree on Sunday that the government’s role is to ensure that every American has health care, he has endorsed such an idea in the past.

When asked in a March 2010 interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” whether he believes in universal coverage, Romney said, “Oh, sure.”

“Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way,” he said.

And in a 2007 interview with Glenn Beck, Romney called the fact that people without insurance were able to get “free care” in emergency rooms “a form of socialism.”

“When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is,” he said at the time. “So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what? If people can afford to buy insurance … or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservativism.”

Getting rid of high numbers of inefficient emergency room visits was actually a key goal of Romney’s health care reform in Massachusetts, as he noted in his book “No Apology”:

After about a year of looking at data — and not making much progress — we had a collective epiphany of sorts, an obvious one, as important observations often are: the people in Massachusetts who didn’t have health insurance were, in fact, already receiving health care. Under federal law, hospitals had to stabilize and treat people who arrived at their emergency rooms with acute conditions. And our state’s hospitals were offering even more assistance than the federal government required. That meant that someone was already paying for the cost of treating people who didn’t have health insurance. If we could get our hands on that money, and therefore redirect it to help the uninsured buy insurance instead and obtain treatment in the way that the vast majority of individuals did — before acute conditions developed — the cost of insuring everyone in the state might not be as expensive as I had feared.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Romney stressed that each state should address the problem of the uninsured through different means. But he didn’t speak with the same alarm about the cost of emergency room care.

“Again, different states have different ways of doing that,” Romney responded. “Some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ‘You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.'”

Romney’s efforts to limit emergency room care in Massachusetts were largely successful.
Six years after he signed health reform into law, visits to emergency rooms in Massachusetts are decreasing and the state has the highest rate of residents with health insurance.

Dr. Somava Stout, who helps oversee primary care for the Cambridge Health Alliance, told CBS in June, “You have people who before would get their diabetic care in the emergency room who instead are coming into primary care, taking care of their diabetes, not ending up hospitalized every three or every four months. I mean it’s a huge difference.”



Parsing Romney’s and Obama’s middle-class pablum

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2012 at 2:28 PM

By David Rohde

Sept 7 | Fri Sep 7, 2012 4:04pm EDT

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/07/column-rohde-idUSL2E8K7GO620120907

(Reuters) – Throughout the last two weeks of political conventions, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and a vast array of surrogates accused their opponents of gutting the American middle class.

Paul Ryan and Bill Clinton did it blatantly. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did it subtly. And all speakers tried to portray themselves as in touch with the middle class, from the Romneys eating “lots of pasta and tuna fish” to Barack Obama’s proudest possession being “a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”

In the process, though, both parties gave politically skewed definitions of the middle class, simplistically blamed each other for its struggles and presented pat solutions for the complex problems it faces.

In Republican oratory, the middle class consists of small-business owners who are being crushed by taxes, regulation and a bloated government. In truth, only about 11 percent of American heads-of-household are self-employed.

In Democratic speechifying, the middle class is made up of hard-working teachers, police officers and union members being laid off by miserly Republicans. Yet those Americans, however hard they work, depend on successful businesses and banks for their prosperity.

In reality, the middle class is a dizzyingly complex demographic. It includes the 50 percent of Americans, for example, who work for large companies with more than 500 employees. And it includes drillers and farmers in North Dakota who are collecting hefty paychecks and cashing in on bumper crops in the state, which has a 3 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation.

The middle class is not in free-fall, as some Republicans argued. And the middle class is not the country’s sole economic engine, as Democrats suggested. Overall, the American middle class today is struggling to surmount torpid wages, global competition for jobs, low home values and spiraling healthcare and education costs. The middle class is stagnant.

What follows is the first of several efforts to sort through Republican and Democratic portrayals, pronouncements and promises for the middle class. More will follow between now and Nov. 6.



In his acceptance speech, Romney said Obama had raised taxes on the middle class. And multiple Obama surrogates – including Vice-President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren – said that Romney would raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000. All of their statements were misleading.

Since taking office, Obama has, in fact, cut middle-class tax rates. Romney, though, was probably referring to the $960-$1200 annual penalty that an estimated 3 million middle-class Americans who fail to obtain health insurance will be expected to pay under Obamacare. In its ruling upholding the healthcare law, the Supreme Court declared the penalty a tax. Definitions of the middle class vary, but most experts view it as the middle 50-60 percent of Americans, or roughly 114 million working age adults. The penalty will apply to approximately 3 million of roughly 57 million middle-class Americans.

Biden’s and Warren’s claim that Romney will increase middle-class taxes is pure speculation. Romney has promised that he will cut tax rates across the board by 20 percent but not reduce overall tax revenues in the process. Independent experts have said it will be extremely difficult for Romney to achieve this goal, and the Republican nominee has declined to give specifics. But the New York Times notes that Romney could decide, instead of increasing middle-class taxes, to add to the deficit, take away preferential rates on savings and investments or make smaller cuts to marginal tax rates. And Romney has repeatedly promised not to raise middle-class taxes.


Romney blamed Obama for a decline in middle-class incomes and a rise in family expenses.

“In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class,” Romney said in Tampa last week. “Family income has fallen by $4,000, but health insurance premiums are higher, food prices are higher, utility bills are higher, and gasoline prices have doubled. Today more Americans wake up in poverty than ever before.”

Romney’s figure of $4,000 includes 13 months of wage decreases that took place before Obama took office, according to FactCheck.org, a non-partisan organization run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Romney is right, though, about food prices, which have risen by 6.2 percent.

Gas prices have, in fact, doubled, but the global recession sparked by the financial crisis artificially lowered them just before Obama took office. Healthcare premiums are up by 9 percent, but independent experts attribute 1 percent to 3 percent of the rise to Obamacare.

And while the total number of Americans living in poverty has never been higher, that is because the U.S. population has grown over time. Today 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, a figure significantly lower than the 23 percent that did when poverty rates were first calculated in 1959. In short, the middle class has definitely suffered under Obama, but not to the extent Romney claimed.



In his acceptance speech, Obama said that Romney’s proposed tax cuts for the wealthy would add to the deficit and fail to spark economic growth. “I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires,” Obama said, “will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit.”

Experts generally agree that the more educated a workforce, the higher its earnings, according to the Washington Post. But economists are divided over tax cuts for the wealthy. There is broad agreement that reducing taxes for the wealthy has led to increased deficits in the past, but there is disagreement over whether tax cuts for the rich spur economic growth. Some economists say it does not, while others insist that it does.


Bill Clinton declared that 24 million private-sector jobs had been created during the 28 years Republicans held the White House over the period since 1962. But, he said, Democrats produced nearly twice as many private-sector jobs – 42 million – during the 24 years they were in power during that same half-century.

Clinton’s figures are accurate, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. But other experts have found that if job creation starts being counted one year after a president takes office – and his policies take effect – the numbers are more even. And many economists argue that the U.S. economy is so large that short-term government policies enacted by any president have a limited effect. Administrations are given too much credit for a growing economy, they say. And too much blame for recessions.

With low TV ratings and the vast majority of voters having already made up their mind, the conventions are unlikely to decide the election. The unimpressive jobs report issued on Friday – only 93,000 new jobs in August – could blunt any momentum the Democrats gained.

In the end, both candidates stayed disappointingly true to form. Romney was cautious and vague. Obama was cautions and incremental. The middle class heard some debate, but mostly got pandering.


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Some Surprising, Happy News About the Middle Class

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2012 at 4:13 PM

You’ve probably heard that the middle class is reeling. Jobs are scarce. Incomes are down. Everybody’s worried about the future.

The latest testament to middle-class woes is a detailed report by the Pew Research Center that decries a “lost decade” in which mainstream Americans mostly slid backward. “Since 2000,” the report declares, “the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.”

Numerous news outlets reported Pew’s findings as indisputable fact. But those news reports mostly overlooked some good news that Pew itself discovered: Americans’ remain surprisingly upbeat about their lives, and report higher levels of satisfaction than you’d expect for a group that has been financially pummeled and has yet to recover.

For instance, 72 percent of respondents in Pew’s survey said they’re either somewhat or very satisfied with their personal financial situation. Just 26 percent said they’re dissatisfied. Americans seem remarkably sanguine, considering that median income over the last five years has fallen by the largest amount since the Great Depression.

Here’s another head-scratcher: 90 percent of those polled said they’re satisfied with their housing situation. Haven’t they heard about the housing bust? That’s the phenomenon in which home values have fallen by more than 30 percent since 2006, leaving nearly one third of mortgage holders owing more than their home is worth. As Pew itself points out, the median net worth of a middle-income family has fallen by about $60,000 since 2007, mainly because so much home equity has evaporated. But why should that phase anybody? Americans are also remarkably content with the way things are going at home, with 94 percent saying they’re satisfied with their family lives. Apparently those reality TV shows about sour housewives in dysfunctional, unhappy families aren’t so realistic after all.

Finally, there’s the “hollowing out” of the middle class, as Pew and others call it. Pew analyzed Census data to show that in 1971, 61 percent of American adults fell into a tier defined as middle-income. By 2011, that had shrunk by 10 points to just 51 percent of adults. But the tier defined as upper income increased by six percentage points over the same time frame, while the lower-income tier increased by just four points. That suggests more people left the middle class by moving up than by moving down.


The problems facing the middle class, nonetheless, are real and worrisome. The United States could easily face another lost decade if jobs don’t materialize and incomes don’t start growing again. A continuation of current trends would push living standards down even further, while creating more poverty, a huge hole in the social safety net, and a bleaker future for our kids than most of us would care to contemplate.

Signs of satisfaction among the middle class don’t invalidate other convincing data showing that prosperity is fading. But they do suggest a couple of important things that the headlines haven’t captured very well. First, Americans seem to be adapting to a tougher economy by paying down debt, spending less, saving more, and weaning themselves off unnecessary frivolities. Whether you’re satisfied or not depends on what your expectations are, and if you downsize your expectations you’re likely to feel happier with less–sort of like the Whos in Whoville. That may be why a majority of people report feeling satisfied, even though data on incomes, housing, and wealth makes it clear the majority of Americans are worse off than they were just a few years ago.

Some Americans may also feel that things are getting better, with a sense of relief that they narrowly escaped disaster. The economy is still weak, but most people know it’s not nearly as scary as it was in 2008 and 2009, when a genuine depression seemed possible. Housing seems to have bottomed out, the stock market has been surprisingly buoyant, and the recovery, while anemic, hasn’t collapsed. So maybe brighter days do in fact lie ahead, and the people necessary to make a renaissance happen sense it coming.

Rick Newman is the author of Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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