Perry, Romney and Their Healthcare Stances: Time to Pay Attention

September 9, 2011
Marisa Torrieri

As GOP candidates carve out their healthcare platforms, physicians should perk up their ears and prepare to compare.

Chances are, you caught (or at least heard about) the jabs between GOP candidates Mitt Romney, Massachusetts’s former governor, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry on healthcare reform, social security, and job creation at the most recent Republican presidential candidate debate. 

One of the most memorable moments, Ponzi scheme-social security comparisons aside: Perry taking a dig at the Massachusetts mandate requiring people to buy health insurance, and Romney defending it.

Not even two days later, news pundits are speculating how the two assumed frontrunners, who joined six other candidates at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for one of the first major political sparrings of the 2012 elections, would tackle healthcare reform.

And although it’s early in the 2012 presidential campaigns, physicians - especially those who aren’t fans of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as “Obamacare” - should take the time to familiarize themselves with the GOP candidates’ healthcare platforms. Or at least their evolving platforms.

A quick candidate healthcare platform guide published by Becker’s Hospital Review in the wake of the debates outlined the basics. As expected, there are some notable differences between the two frontrunners. Perry believes job creation can improve healthcare, as it would allow employed consumers to be covered by employer-sponsored health plans. He also is in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Romney, meanwhile, reportedly supports a national version of his Massachusetts universal health program, but not at the expense of raising taxes.

But an editorial in the New Jersey Star-Ledger compared pinning down Republican presidential candidates on specifics to getting “a measles shot into the arm of a wriggling toddler.”

“Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whose plan was the model for the Affordable Care Act, now insists that what’s good for a state isn’t necessarily good for a nation,” Star-Ledger editors wrote. “To coax votes from conservatives, he is backpedaling from a sensible program that provides insurance for 96 percent of Massachusetts residents.”

Editors also noted that Perry, who supposedly finds healthcare mandates “repulsive,” signed an executive order that all teenage girls in his state receive the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Perry was reminded of this stance by another GOP candidate, Texas Rep. Ron Paul - who is also a physician - during the debate. The order signed by Perry was never enacted into law and he has since backtracked his stance on the controversial initiative.

Furthermore, while Perry is critical of the Massachusetts plan, he also has stated that “the answer to healthcare issues in this country can be found in the states,” the editorial noted.

Like we said, it’s still early. Many of you are just getting to know these candidates.

Perhaps physicians should consider that the Affordable Care Act is still in its infancy: Some changes that went into law only recently revealed themselves. It may be too soon to weigh its effectiveness in favor of ideological healthcare changes envisioned by the likes of Perry or Romney.

Regardless of how they feel today, physicians should keep their eyes peeled and their ears tuned to what GOP frontrunners are saying today, as healthcare reform will definitely be a big-ticket issue for many years to come.