Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2008, says it’s time to reform the two major “entitlement” programs in America: Social Security and Medicare, government-paid health care insurance for the elderly. “It’s really not possible for us to remain an economic and military super power without rethinking and restructuring our entitlements programs,” Romney says.
After getting re-elected in 2004, President Bush proposed revamping the Social Security system but has abandoned his plan in the face of stiff opposition. Romney, as the governor of Massachusetts, signed legislation this spring that ensures nearly every citizen in his state is covered with health insurance. Premiums are based on income, low income residents are given subsidies to purchase insurance and companies that do not provide health care insurance for their workers pay a premium, too. Romney says the move will eventually reduce the amount of charity health care in Massachusetts because the very poor won’t wait ’til they’re very sick and need very expensive health services.
Romney suggests it’s time to tackle the nation’s health care system for the elderly, too. “Medicare is the largest challenge. Social Security is up there,” Romney says. “Today entitlements represent, plus interest, about 60 percent of federal spending. It grows to 70 percent over the next decade as the result of the Baby Boomers flowing into the system.”
Romney says leaders from both political parties will have to quit “filibustering” in public and come up with a solution in private. “Sitting down, quietly, behind closed doors and having a full and complete discussion of various ways to bring the costs down and to keep it from getting out of control,” Romney says. “In my state the way we were able to do that was on Medicaid, for instance, we sat down and completely re-did our Medicaid program and put in place a new health care system that got everybody in the system and everybody paying their fair share. Those kinds of changes can occur at the federal level and there’s going to be a wide array of options that will be considered.”
Romney says “statesmen” from both political parties should sit down and “say honestly: ‘What can we do?'” to fix Social Security. Romney says the solution should “make sure that we honor the expections” of those who are already getting Social Security and those who are about to get regular Social Security checks from the government, while at the same time ensuring the system will be solvent when the 30- and 40-year-olds of today reach retirement age.
Romney says the political reality is that changes won’t happen until both political parties agree there’s a problem. “We need to finally take action in this country on entitlements, on spending too much money generally, on using too much oil, on winning against the jihadists,” Romney says. “There are a number of challenges that we face and we’ve got to take some pretty bold action.”
Romney was the keynote speaker at a breakfast fundraiser in West Des Moines for a GOP candidate for the legislature.