Friday, August 24, 2007

Romney offers healthcare crisis prescription

By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff

Mitt Romney, rolling out his healthcare plan in Florida today, will call for a combination of federal tax breaks and incentives to states to help the uninsured afford coverage, while offering strategies to rein in health costs, such as capping punitive damages in malpractice cases.

Drawing on some aspects of the Massachusetts health reform law he helped enact as governor, Romney will urge states to redirect federal money that is now spent on expensive emergency room care for people without insurance, putting it instead towards helping low-income people pay for health insurance.

Sally Canfield, policy director for the campaign, said the plan would not require any new money. It relies entirely on reallocating existing federal spending on healthcare and creating a more vigorous market to drive down premium prices, she said.

"What we're trying to do is build on the Massachusetts example, and what worked here, and provide a way for states to have access to the same types of choices we have in Massachusetts," she said.

Romney's proposal would also make insurance premiums more affordable for individuals by making health costs tax-deductible once they enroll in a plan. The Massachusetts law created the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector partly to give individuals access to the same tax deductions available to businesses and other groups.

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