The silly story of the day came from Wawas, which I believe is a more upscale 7/11 type chain on the east coast. Mitt Romney’s defenders say that initial video clips were misleading, suggesting that Romney was out of touch by not being aware of machines which will dispense a sandwich at the simple touch of a button. Right wing bloggers, who are only too eager to spread clips and quotes from Obama and other liberals out of context, became upset when apparently this was done to their guy. Of course this practice is wrong regardless of who does it, and everybody should stop doing it.
For the sake of discussion I will give Romney the benefit of the doubt and assume that his campaign’s explanation for what occurred at Wawa was true. Their explanation was that Romney was comparing the ease of getting a sandwich from a machine in the free enterprise system to the difficulties of an optometrist who allegedly had to fill out a 33-page form to change his address for Medicaid:
“I met an optometrist this morning and … this optometrist wanted to change his billing address. He moved his office from one side of town to the other, same Zip code, same post office. But he wanted to change his address. He got a form from the federal government. This is so he could get reimbursement from the federal government for the services he provides for the poor and seniors.
“The form he gets to change address is 33 pages long — 33 pages long. He calls someone to ask how to fill it out. He calls someone in government. They tell him what to do. He sends it in. They sent it back. It wasn’t done right, got to do it again, another 33 pages. He calls another person. They tell him what to do. Doesn’t get it right the second time. The third time’s the charm, though. This takes several months during which time he’s not getting the checks for the work he’s doing for people who need his care. That’s how government works.”
There are more serious problems with this explanation than the original storyline that Romney was surprised by the sandwich machine. The original storyline presumably was intended to emphasize the idea that Romney is out of touch, but would that really hurt? Does anyone, either pro or anti Romney, really think that Mitt Romney gets sandwiches from vending machines, and would this really influence anyone’s vote?
On the other hand, the later explanation emphasizes the fact that Mitt Romney just cannot be trusted. First of all, Romney is comparing apples and oranges when comparing the ease of purchasing a sandwich with monitoring of those who provide professional services. The government is actually sending payments to the optometrist, giving them more interest in knowing for certain that the person they are sending the checks to is really the right person. Fraud is a widespread problem in health care, but not in selling sandwiches, making monitoring more important. The bureaucratic burden in health care is not limited to government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Medical professionals are also burdened with paperwork demands of private insurance companies. The bureaucratic mindset is not limited to government.
Of course even with these differences a 33-page form to change an address sounds ridiculous–and is not an accurate claim. Mitt Romney is so eager to make government look bad while campaigning that he has no regard for whether what he says is true. Some blogs have linked to an example of a two page form (with two pages of instructions) for a change of address. Many state Medicaid programs, as well as Medicare, now use a totally computerized system to change information. When I sign on to these systems they are already populated with information on file, making it a simple matter to update any changes, and then sign and fax in an attestation form that the changes are accurate. Possibly the entire system has 33 pages on a medical professional, but it is only necessary to update the pertinent section.
I also wonder about the intelligence of the optometrist who Romney quoted if he had this much difficulty with a form and the process took months. I guess if he was brighter he wouldn’t be supporting Mitt Romney, and the idiocy of Joe the Plumber extends to other professions.