WSJ's Strassel baselessly claims MA voters rejected "ObamaCare" because their state health reform "bombed"


In a Wall Street Journal column, Kim Strassel wrote that Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown "turned his Senate bid into a referendum on President Obama's health plan" and baselessly claimed that "[a] big reason only 25% of Massachusetts voters strongly approve of ObamaCare" is because their own universal health care program "bombed." In fact, a recent poll shows that a majority in Massachusetts support the 2006 state plan; moreover, Brown had argued during the campaign that since the state already passed health reform, it would not benefit from a national plan.

Strassel says MA election was a "referendum" on national health care because of dissatisfaction with state plan

From Strassel's January 21 Wall Street Journal column:

Mr. Brown brazenly turned his Senate bid into a referendum on President Obama's health plan, and voters rewarded him with a job. Yet ObamaCare's model was the health reform inflicted on Massachusetts by a certain Republican governor in 2006, otherwise known as RomneyCare.

That precursor shares many elements of Washington's legislation, from an individual mandate, to employer taxes, to subsidized middle-class insurance. The program has bombed, creating giant costs while realizing minimal benefits. A big reason only 25% of Massachusetts voters strongly approve of ObamaCare is because of this experience.

Poll: Majority in Massachusetts support state health plan

Boston Globe: 59 percent said they favored Massachusetts' health plan. On September 28, 2009, The Boston Globe reported that "[p]ublic support for Massachusetts' closely watched health insurance overhaul has slipped over the past year, a new poll indicates, but residents still support the path-breaking 2006 law by a 2-to-1 ratio." The article further stated: "Amid a severe recession that has led to cuts in state programs and unrelenting job losses, 59 percent of those surveyed said they favored the state's multimillion-dollar insurance initiative, down from 69 percent a year ago. The poll, by the Harvard School of Public Health and The Boston Globe, found that opposition to the law stands at 28 percent, up slightly from 22 percent in a June 2008 survey." The poll also found that "[o]nly 11 percent of state residents favored repealing the law, similar to last year's finding."

Brown campaigned against federal health reform by pointing to success of coverage expansions Massachusetts already achieved

Brown campaign: Massachusetts has "already achieved near-universal coverage." Brown stated during the final debate in the Senate race, "We have insurance here in Massachusetts. We have some of the best doctors, nurses, and hospitals in the country." Brown further said of the national health care bill, "[M]y job is to be the senator from Massachusetts. I'm not going to be subsidizing for the next three, five years, pick a number, subsidizing what other states have failed to do." Politico's Ben Smith also reported that Eric Fehrnstrom, a Brown aide, stated:

In Massachusetts, 98 percent of residents are covered by insurance through our own state reforms. The plan is not perfect, and we need to get costs down, but we have already achieved near-universal coverage. There is nothing for us in a national plan except higher taxes and more spending to finance coverage expansions in other states. It's a raw deal for Massachusetts.

Washington Post: "Brown's victory in Mass. senate race hardly a repudiation of health reform." In a January 21 Washington Post article, reporter Alec MacGillis wrote that -- even according to Brown himself -- Massachusetts voters are biased against national health care reform because they already have universal health care coverage, and if the reform were to pass, they would effectively be subsidizing the states that don't. MacGillis further noted that the Massachusetts health reform plan is "the basic model for national health-care legislation" and that "Brown has not disavowed his support for the state's law." From the article:

While many are describing the election to fill the late Edward M. Kennedy's Senate seat as a referendum on national health-care reform, the Republican candidate rode to victory on a message more nuanced than flat-out resistance to universal health coverage: Massachusetts residents, he said, already had insurance and should not have to pay for it elsewhere.

Scott Brown, the Republican state senator who won a stunning upset in Tuesday's election, voted for the state's health-care legislation, which was signed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and has covered all but 3 percent of Massachusetts residents. That legislation became the basic model for national health-care legislation. Brown has not disavowed his support for the state's law, which retains majority backing in Massachusetts.

Instead, he argued on the campaign trail that Massachusetts had taken care of its own uninsured, and it would not be in the state's interest to contribute to an effort to cover the uninsured nationwide.


Brown's message underscores a little-noticed political dynamic in a country where rates of the uninsured vary widely, from Massachusetts to Texas, where 25 percent are uninsured. Seeking national universal coverage means sending money from states that have tried hard to expand coverage, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, to states that have not, mostly in the South and West.

Supporters of the national legislation say this transfer is an unfortunate but unavoidable aspect of expanding coverage. But, they argue, the nation is misinterpreting expressions of self-interest in Massachusetts as grand opposition to universal health insurance.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Wall Street Journal
Kimberley A. Strassel
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