ABC "Good Morning America" - Transcript
MR. GIBSON: All right. A lot of people have said, all right, what has Massachusetts done? And as I understand, the plan is that every individual has to -- has to -- buy health insurance if their company doesn't provide it. And if they're too poor, the state will give it to them or help them buy it, correct?
GOV. ROMNEY: That's a pretty fair statement. What we've found is if you have people who sit outside the system and instead just show up at the hospital when they're sick and expect someone else to pay, that's a free-rider system, it's bad health care for them, it's expensive for everyone else. Now, we're saying, "Everybody, come on in. We want you to buy insurance if you can afford it, and we also will help you buy insurance if you can't afford it." We look at your income and, of course, we subsidize those at very low income.
MR. GIBSON: But how would that work, Governor, say for a carpenter, who works for himself, freelances, makes 30 (thousand dollars), $40,000 a year? How can he afford 300 (dollars), $400 a month for insurance?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, he couldn't. And that's why the policies that we're looking at are going to more like $200 a month, and the -- if a person was making, let's say, $30,000 a year, then they'd need some help in buying that policy, and so we would pick up a portion of the price. If somebody were earning, for instance, as low as $15,000 a year, they'd pay $2.31 a week, pretty low number.
But everybody pays something. No more entire free ride on everybody else. Everybody pays what they can afford. As their incomes go higher, they pay a larger amount until they ultimately are making $54,000 a year. At that point they pick up the entire premium, which is roughly $200 a month.
MR. GIBSON: Governments are famous for underestimating costs of various programs. The number I have seen, the state says they can do this in new money, about $125 million a year. Really?
GOV. ROMNEY: Well, actually it doesn't take any new money at all. My legislature has added some new benefits to our regular Medicaid program that accounts for the increase that you're talking about. What we found is we spend as a state roughly a billion dollars a year providing free health care to people who don't have insurance. And the cost of helping those people buy insurance instead is closer to $650 million. It looks like a real savings. Now, we're not planning on generating that savings. We're going to keep that money aside as a special pool in case we've calculated incorrectly.
But ultimately we believe that people having insurance will mean that people go to the primary care physician and the clinic first if they get sick, and that will mean better health care treatment. People who have insurance go to the hospital far less often and have much lower charges when they are at the hospital than people who don't have insurance.
MR. GIBSON: A lot of people are speculating Mitt Romney perhaps runs for president in 2008. A lot of people don't even say perhaps. If he does run, is the health care plan of Massachusetts sort of a foundation for his platform?
GOV. ROMNEY: (Chuckles.) Well, I'm not sure about the future plans at this stage. We'll let the future take care of itself. But with regards to what's happening in this country, I must admit that I'm pleased with the fact that, here in a state that's overwhelmingly Democratic, that a Republican governor could introduce a plan to get everybody insured, work collaboratively with the Democratic legislature, combined with the administration in Washington and our delegation there, to come up with a plan that gets the job done.
People want problems solved, (I think ?) at the state level and at the federal level, and I hope that at least is passed on to other states.
MR. GIBSON: I'll give up on the presidential questions and we'll address those perhaps in the future.
GOV. ROMNEY: (Laughs.)
MR. GIBSON: Governor Romney, appreciate it very much.
GOV. ROMNEY: Thank you, Charlie.