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Between the Lines: Affordable Care?

Obamacare and Romneycare both miss the mark.

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Last week was a big one for Boston—a big week for all Massachusetts. All New England, really.

Of course, most of the fanfare came as a result of the Red Sox World Series win. But it’s also not every day that the Bay State gets a visit from the president. With his visit to Boston on Wednesday, Oct. 30, President Obama hoped to take full advantage of the layered connections between New England and its beloved baseball team and between the Boston Red Sox franchise and heathcare reform (aka Romneycare) in Massachusetts.

The timing of the visit, “on the day the Red Sox would go on to win the World Series, was particularly apt,” noted Jonathan Cohn in his Oct. 31 New Republic column. “As almost everybody knows by now, the Red Sox organization promoted the Massachusetts health reforms, sponsoring efforts to enroll people and even having players appear in ads directly addressing the young, healthy people who might think insurance was unnecessary.” After weeks of bad news about the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), the White House hoped to plead for patience by reminding us that Romneycare was a bust at first, too.

As a public relations move, Obama’s visit to Boston may have been helpful to his political cause: to appear confident in the face not only of continued carping from Republicans in Congress, but growing frustration and disappointment from the small percentage of Americans most immediately affected by the ACA and its badly functioning website. Sadly, the comparison of Obamacare to Romneycare is not only wrong, it’s beside the point to many of us.

Cohn, who tends to favor this White House, explained the difference between the two healthcare reforms in his column: “In Massachusetts, political, business, and health care leaders were united behind the plan. It may not have been their idea of what health care reform should look like, but they understood the value... .”

President Obama’s experience with reform at the national level is a far cry from what Mitt Romney encountered in Massachusetts—a point Obama’s critics, including Romney, are now seizing on, attacking Obama for being ambitious enough to think he could pull off a similar reform on a national level.

In the meantime, many of us in the Bay State, even if we favor the move to insure the uninsured, continue to see our premiums and co-payments rise and the quality of our coverage and care fall. While Romneycare helps lower-income people with subsidies and forces people who used to opt out of buying market insurance to pay premiums, it has done little to improve the quality of health care for most of us. Its success is partial and mostly political.

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