Dear Friends (and friends of friends).
This is a true story. Yesterday morning, the morning after Super Tuesday, and the Massachusetts Republican Primary, I was leaving my doctor’s office at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Who should I encounter coming into the doctor’s office but none other than Mitt Romney. A big, burly Secret Service agent preceded him, and an equally tall Secret Service agent lingered outside in the corridor talking on her cell phone. My wife Nancy was entering the women’s restroom just at Mitt passed us by. He was wearing his trademark pressed blue jeans and starched, open collar shirt.
As I waited for Nancy to come out of the restroom, I decided to have an imaginary conversation with Mitt while he sat in the doctor’s lobby filling out the standard patient questionnaire about prior health issues, allergies to medicines, etc. So in my imagination I walked over and sat down next to him in the nearly deserted waiting room. I introduced myself, and then asked him if he was here in Massachusetts taking advantage of the great healthcare law he helped pass as governor, a/k/a “RomneyCare.” He noticeably shifted in his chair, and replied, ”Well, kinda. I live in Massachusetts, and that’s where I have my health insurance, and my doctors.” ”Oh,” I replied, “I thought you lived in New Hampshire, on Lake Winnepausaukee. Or in Southern California overlooking the Pacific. Or in Utah.” Mitt muttered something about owning houses in those other states, and his wife having her two Cadillacs there, but Massachusetts was where he now lived.
So I asked him why he chose to live here in Massachusetts, when he could live in any of his three other houses. He kinda smiled sheepishly, and then admitted in a whisper: ”Because Massachusetts has by far the best health care in the country, and I have a couple of pre-existing conditions, as does my wife Ann, which means we can’t get insurance in any other state…..” I nodded knowingly. “Plus, the costs for my health insurance here are way lower than what I would pay in New Hampshire, or California, or Utah.” I nodded again, and remarked that’s because in Massachusetts we have that great health insurance exchange called the Mass Connector, right? Mitt smiled, and said: ”Boy, you must be from here too, right? And have used the Connector to get your own health insurance?” I said, “You bet. Now I am on Medicare, but have a Medicare Supplement policy that is competitively priced due to the Connector. But my wife recently had to use the Connector to buy her own health insurance until she is Medicare-eligible next month. You would not believe how easy–ten minutes online– and inexpensive it was for her to find the right health insurance policy.”
Mitt looked at me with a satisfied smile. I said how much I appreciated the work he had done as governor to get the health reform law passed here. I added how fortunate it is that the rest of my family living in other states will now have the exact same benefits under the new federal Affordable Care Act that he and I have. Mitt again looked a bit uncomfortable, and said: “Well, I don’t know. I am now eligible for Medicare, since I turn 65 next week; March 12 to be exact. So once I am on Medicare, I won’t have any worries about pre-existing conditions, cancellation of my coverage if I get sick, or have any so-called lifetime caps on coverage, or even high insurance premiums.” I reacted with surprise: ”You are going to enroll in Medicare? I am surprised, since you are worth, what, maybe $250 million? Why would you burden the Medicare system with your own health care?” Mitt looked down, and then whispered those now- familiar words: ”Look, I’m running for president. How would it look if I did not enroll in the Medicare program that supports millions of lesser, I mean less wealthy, voters.”
I nodded knowingly, again. But I couldn’t resist asking just one more question. ”As you know, Mitt, Massachusetts residents have the best, overall health of any state in the country. Almost 99% of Massachusetts residents have health insurance, and enjoy the best preventive medicine in the country, all because of your leadership in enacting the Massachusetts health reform back in 1996. It also mandates birth control contraceptives be provided in every health insurance policy, which has meant that Massachusetts has one of the lowest abortion rates, and lowest teen-pregnancy rates in the country. As I understand it, the federal Affordable Care Act is patterned on your 1996 Massachusetts health reform act. My question is simple: wouldn’t the Massachusetts results be duplicated nationally under the Affordable Care Act, and wouldn’t that be a great thing?” Mitt hesitated, then leaned over to me and whispered: ”Of course it would, but I can’t say that. I know it’s the truth, but I need to keep pretending the Affordable Care Act is socialized medicine, or like some European country, just anything to keep “my base” off base. I’m a Severe Conservative now. If I start telling the truth, Rush Limbaugh might criticize me. The Koch Brothers might never give my SuperPac another dime.” And with that, Mitt stood up, looked at me with an awkward smile, and disappeared into the doctor’s inner office. The Secret Service agent remained, silently awaiting his return.