AHIP: Romney defends Massachusetts healthcare reform, to a point

Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney defended his landmark universal healthcare reform in a keynote at America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) Institute. However, he said that what worked in the Bay State should not have been applied on a national level.

Massachusetts has the lowest uninsurance rate in the nation, due in large part to a healthcare reform bill Romney signed in 2006 that expanded Medicaid and offered subsidized insurance through a health insurance exchange.

The reform worked, Romney said, because 93 percent of Massachusetts residents already had what Romney described as "gold-plated" insurance plans. That's not the case in most other states, Romney noted. Mandating that Americans purchase those types of plans explains the rise in insurance premiums, he added--though rising drug prices and the cost of treating the newly insured also play a role.

"Don't put Massachusetts requirements on the entire nation," Romney said. Instead, states should be able to develop reforms that work best for their residents. "If Vermont wants to be a single payer, let them try."

On a national level, Romney told the industry to take a serious look at rising Medicare and Medicaid costs in the larger context of the growing debt associated with federal government spending. Specifically, he called for Medicaid reforms that would allow beneficiaries to retain coverage when they get married or start a new job.