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Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Mister PowerPoint Goes to Washington"

Please read this excellent piece from The American by Matthew Rees titled "Mister PowerPoint Goes to Washington."

It is the best coverage of Romney's business background and CEO/Venture Capitalist style that I have ever read and deserves a read. It also has great coverage of the Mass Healthcare Initiative which is quoted below.

I've had an idea for several months that Romney would be the first "PowerPoint President" America has seen--someone who can present data, graphs, figures, pictures all along with an articulate delivery that we, as the American people, will come to appreciate . . . actually understanding what happens in government and with our taxes.

A great and refreshing read after the incessant bombs the Boston Globe and NYTimes keep trying to drop on him.

Here's the healthcare coverage:
It was inevitable that, as governor, Romney would go after the thorniest public-policy problem of all: health care. Tom Stemberg convinced him to take it on. In April, with a good deal of national attention, Romney signed a measure to provide universal coverage for the uninsured in Massachusetts without raising taxes or resorting to employer mandates. The conservative Heritage Foundation played an advisory role; the measure won grudging support from Ted Kennedy (who had beaten Romney, 58 percent to 41 percent, in a Senate race in 1994) and even The New York Times editorial board, which called it “a carefully crafted plan with elements that could serve as a model for elsewhere.”

Romney had started, naturally, with a Bain-style strategic audit, pulling together experts from business, academia, and government, and posing a few basic—though frequently overlooked—questions: Who exactly was uninsured? Why were they uninsured? What could be done to enable people to keep their health coverage even if they switched jobs or worked as independent contractors?

A survey of 5,000 state households turned up some surprises. Twenty percent of the uninsured were eligible for Medicaid but had not enrolled. Another 40 percent had annual earnings high enough to afford health care but had decided to forgo it. The remaining 40 percent were earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance.

Romney focused on the fact that so many people who could afford health care had decided to go without it. He asked for data on the bundled price of health care to be unpacked and looked for ways to change the market conditions that had driven up the cost of care. He ultimately settled on a measure, known as the Connector, which created an entirely new market for health care—enabling individuals and families to purchase private health insurance, with pre-tax dollars, at a savings of 20 percent to 40 percent. (Romney also pressed for eliminating a number of state-imposed mandates on health insurers, as these mandates had the perverse effect of driving up premiums and leading some companies to drop health insurance as a benefit. The legislature refused to go along, but did agree to a moratorium.)

Because, under the Connector system, health coverage was not tied to an employer, residents had a property right to the insurance and would not lose it if they switched jobs. “This is something conservatives have been trying to achieve for 50 years,” says Robert Moffit, a former Reagan administration official who, as director of Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, regularly consulted with Romney.

Romney created an Internet portal for hospitals and clinics to enroll eligible residents in Medicaid automatically when they sought treatment. For uninsured residents whose income was too high to qualify for Medicaid, Romney offered a subsidy funded from the state’s uninsured care fund, which totaled about $1 billion. Romney asked an MIT economist, Jonathan Gruber, to develop an econometric profile of this segment of uninsured residents. Gruber discovered that they were disproportionately young single males who were both educated and healthy, so the subsidies were unlikely to be greater than the $1 billion in the pool.

True to form, Romney became deeply immersed in crafting the health-care proposal. Moffit recalls that when he was asked to brief Romney, he found the tables turned. Romney was the one who gave Moffit the comprehensive PowerPoint presentation. “In 25 years of briefing elected officials and senior government executives, this was the first time I was the one who got briefed,” Moffit says. “It was like being in a private class with a very high-energy professor, and Romney was the professor and I was the student.”

The health care achievement quickly raised Romney’s national profile. “His candidacy is taken very seriously among insiders,” says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution. “He increasingly appears likely to be the strongest challenger to John McCain for the Republican nomination.”
Some other great quotes:

Plus, Romney was obsessed with numbers. “My favorite thing to do is to bathe in data,” he says now, “do analysis, reach conclusions, and then find a breakthrough. There is nothing as exciting as that ‘aha!’ moment—seeing something that looks insoluble and finding a way to make it work.” . . .

Each week, the firm’s professionals would gather in a windowless conference room for what was known as a BCBR, or Bain Capital Business Review, reviewing the strategic audits and making decisions on whether or not companies were worthy of an investment. Unanimity among the partners was required for a commitment. Consistently playing the role of contrarian was Romney, who thrived on trying to find holes in his colleagues’arguments (even when fully supportive of the investment proposal). Bain Capital’s portfolio companies eventually included Sealy, Brookstone, The Sports Authority, and Domino’s, and the firm now has $40 billion in assets under management . . .
It doesn’t hurt that Romney has star power as well. He was named one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people in 2002 . . .
In a quest for the Republican nomination there’s no question that Romney will be well organized and well prepared. But how will he respond to the crises that are inevitable in every presidential campaign, when there’s no time for a strategic audit and decisions have to be made on nothing more than gut instinct? Stemberg, the Staples founder, is one who thinks he’s up to the task: “I have never met a better venture capitalist or corporate director than Mitt Romney. I suspect he will be an equally good president.” We may get a chance to find out.
Let's all hope so!

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