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The Irony of Scott Brown’s Opposition to Health Care Reform

Scott Brown, the Republican newly elected to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), has been surprisingly forthcoming about his vote in favor of the health reforms adopted by Massachusetts a few years back — reforms that include the same individual coverage mandate that many Republicans on Capitol Hill have declared unconstitutional. And while many Republicans are spinning Brown’s victory as an indictment of the Democrats’ health reform push, The Washington Post’s Alec MacGillis today points out the inaccuracy of that argument.

Brown, he writes, “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.”

“We have insurance here in Massachusetts,” he said in a campaign debate. “I’m not going to be subsidizing for the next three, five years, pick a number, subsidizing what other states have failed to do.”

What Brown failed to mention is the inconvenient fact that the Massachusetts reform plan (1) focused on coverage, not cost containment (not exactly an approach championed by the fiscally conservative), and (2) relies heavily on federal subsidies to fund an expansion of the state’s Medicaid and CHIP programs, among others. In October, the New England Journal of Medicine, using state data, reported that the federal government dedicated $688 million to Massachusetts health care in 2006, before the reforms took effect. In 2007, after the reforms were in place, that number jumped to $816 million. In 2008, it was $888 million. Last year, it was projected to approach $1.3 billion.

So while Brown says he’s not going to subsidize what other states failed to do, other states are busy subsidizing what Massachusetts has done. He should at least acknowledge that fact as he continues to oppose the Democrats’ proposals.

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