Report: Health Costs Up, Insurance Down Under Romney's Health Plan

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Families would pay nearly twice as much for non-group health coverage in 2016 and more than 40 million U.S. residents would be uninsured under Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's health proposals than under the federal health reform law signed by President Obama, according to a report released Thursday by Families USA, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/27).

Report Details

The report -- titled "ObamaCare versus RomneyCare versus RomneyCandidateCare" -- was prepared in part by professors Stuart Altman of Brandeis University, Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and John McDonough of Harvard University. It relies on national and state data to compare the benefits and costs of the health reform law, the Massachusetts health reform law passed when Romney was the state's governor and proposals Romney has detailed during the presidential campaign (Ritchie, Business Courier, 9/27).

The study estimated that families purchasing health insurance on their own would pay $11,481 on average in 2016 under Romney's proposals to repeal the health reform law and create an insurance tax deduction for health insurance. In contrast, if Obama remains president and the health reform law fully takes effect, families would pay an average of $5,985 in 2016 ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/27).

According to the report, fewer families would receive help paying for insurance premiums under Romney because his proposals use tax deductions, which are based on individuals' wages, while the Affordable Care Act provides tax credits. "ObamaCare [would] provide help to more than twice as many people," and "the average amount of help provided to each person is also much larger," the report states.

Under the health reform law, 20.3 million U.S. residents buying coverage in the individual market would receive tax credits, averaging $4,231. Under the Romney plan, fewer than 10.1 million individuals would receive help paying for premiums, and those who do will receive an average of $2,490 (Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 9/27).

The report also found that Romney's plans would result in more than 40 million additional U.S. residents being uninsured, in part through his proposal to turn Medicaid into a block-grant system. Further, the report states that Romney's Medicare proposals would "significantly" change the program by repealing benefits created under the ACA, accelerating its insolvency and partially privatizing the program.

The authors concluded that the federal health reform law and the reform law signed by Romney as governor of Massachusetts would lead to similar outcomes, but the proposals Romney has put forth as the GOP presidential nominee are drastically different and would place a "growing and unsustainable burden on America's families."

Romney Campaign Criticizes the Report

In an email, Amanda Henneberg, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, called the report "absurd," adding, "It assumes a fantasy world where ObamaCare has actually worked." She noted that U.S. residents have seen provisions fail, costs increase and a $716 billion cut from Medicare as a result of the health reform law ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/27).

Voters Favor Obama in Three Swing States, Poll Finds

In related news, a majority of voters in Florida, Ohio and Virginia broadly oppose Romney's plan to transition Medicare to a premium support system, according to new state polls by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Among the three states, 50% of voters age 50 and older favor Obama over Romney on Medicare. In Florida, 70% of all voters -- and 91% of elderly voters -- say the current Medicare system works well. Further, 65% of all voters in Florida said they favored keeping the system as is.

When asked which candidate they trust the most to deal the Medicare program, Florida voters favored Obama by 15 percentage points, Ohio voters favored Obama by 19 percentage points and Virginia voters preferred Obama by 13 percentage points, according to the poll (Aizenman et al., Washington Post, 9/27).

Romney Campaign Responds to Poll

Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokesperson, dismissed the poll, saying the results were skewed because it did not accurately explain the Republicans' plan and left out key parts, including the option for future beneficiaries to continue using traditional Medicare (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Times, 9/27).

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