The Washington Straddle is a gymnastics-like pose where politicians place one foot on either side of the fence while keeping their ear to the ground. It is painful to watch and most likely painful to perform, yet many in the political arena seem quite adept at it.
Such is the case with Mitt Romney. While serving as governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he championed “Romney Care,” which many see as the precursor to “Obamacare.” This weekend, the potential Republican presidential nominee tried to mitigate the damage done to his political stature by the issue, which hangs on him like an albatross.
In ancient times, an albatross following behind a sailing ship was considered to be a symbol of good luck. In Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the crew is certain that when an albatross is shot and killed, it can mean nothing less than bad luck. As punishment, the albatross is hung around the shooter’s neck. And, oh yes, bad luck does befall the ship.
The results of a recent survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society aren’t likely to help Romney’s luck much. According to the survey, fewer than half of the state’s primary care doctors are taking new patients. Before Romney Care, the number was 20% better. The average wait time for a non-emergent routine checkup with an internist is 48 days. Last year, it took 36 days to get an appointment with a gastroenterologist; this year, that is up to 43 days. An ob-gyn appointment takes 41 days, which is a week longer than it took last year.
Costs are skyrocketing, doctors are leaving and emergency rooms, the court of last resort for those who can’t get in to see a physician, have seen a 9% increase in visits in the last four years. Clearly, all of these are unintended consequences that must occur when you increase access without dealing with costs. The unfortunate evidence is mounting: on government-sponsored health care, as Massachusetts goes, so goes the nation.