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Mitt Romney, then-president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, on Oct. 1, 2001. (DOUGLAS C. PIZAC/Associated Press)
Mitt Romney, then-president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, on Oct. 1, 2001. (DOUGLAS C. PIZAC/Associated Press)

Expat dispatches: Salt Lake City Olympics was Romney at his best. Health care, on the other hand… Add to ...

This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border. Colleen Pendergast, from Edmonton, lived and worked as a teacher and principal in Utah, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

As a Canadian expat living in the United States, I have been fortunate to live in several interesting areas. Two of those locations have something in common: Mitt Romney. First, I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, during his reign of the 2002 Winter Olympics and I currently live in Massachusetts, where his health-care reform is firmly in place. I guess you could say that without meaning to, I have lived life in the U.S. during and after Mr. Romney’s leadership.

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The good: Salt Lake City Games 2002

I lived in Utah from 1994 – 2002, so I experienced the Olympics during the bid, construction, and then the Games themselves, just like many Canadians did during the Vancouver Olympic Games. I can’t speak for Vancouver, but I can speak for the scandal that tainted the Salt Lake Games before Mitt Romney took over.

As a Utahan and lover of the Olympic Games, I was thrilled and proud that my adopted home state had received the bid to host the 2002 games. It was a big party that most Utahans embraced. But very quickly Olympic bribery scandals emerged aimed at the leaders of the squeaky clean, Mormon state. I am not going to lie: it was a blow to all of us who lived there and wanted our state to look good to the world, instead of like a bunch of cheaters.

Enter Mitt Romney. Utah cleaned house and brought in new leadership. That said, as a state, Utah is divided between Mormons and non-Mormons.

Those of us non-Mormons were frustrated that they brought in a Mormon from Massachusetts to lead this charge. It felt like cronyism at its finest, and it was. But, Mitt Romney was the right person for the job and he became the face of “saving the Games.” He very smoothly and efficiently took charge, communicated very well with the public through the transition and throughout the remainder of the games.

He also successfully co-ordinated various government agencies as well as the security of the games, right after the Sept. 11 attacks. As a resident at the time, the whole experience was positive, smooth, unifying, and financially successful. I felt like we were in very competent, intelligent hands.

The bad: RomneyCare Massachusetts

Fast forward a few years and here I am living in Massachusetts and living with “RomneyCare.” Mr. Romney should have rested on his Olympic laurels, to say the least.

If you live in Massachusetts and you have health insurance through your employer, you are pretty much fine. If you are lower income, you can access public health care, just like other places in the U.S. However, if you are like me, self-employed – or you don’t have health insurance through your job – it is extremely expensive to pay for the health insurance in Massachusetts. I pay over $500 per month for my premiums under RomneyCare, and that gets much closer to $1,000 per month for a family, not including any extra co-pays. And that is if you are healthy.

Some of my self-employed friends opt not to have health insurance. These are middle-class people who care a lot about their health, but opt instead to pay the $1,000 annual penalty for not carrying the required health insurance. They know they can handle the costs of smaller health issues and just pay out of pocket, as needed, but none of them wants to think about the worst-care scenario. Also, Massachusetts is one of the most expensive places in the U.S. for medical care. A routine office check-up in Boston costs over $800.00. Mr. Romney’s universal health care is exorbitantly expensive, if you ask me.

Not only is the health insurance mandate not affordable, but it is not user friendly. Forget about your advanced degrees, they won’t help you navigate the paperwork and jargon that comes in the mail every few months with warnings that action is required or you will lose your coverage. Put aside a few hair-pulling hours to read and decipher the latest and very complicated changes to your policy that affect you immediately.

If you have no money at all, RomneyCare is good (and I am glad for this). If you have a lot of money (like the “1 per cent”) it is good, because the medical care in Massachusetts is excellent and you can just pay for it as you need it, disregarding insurance altogether. But, if you have some money…forget about it!

Who knows what will happen in November, but if Mr. Romney is elected U.S. president, I hope his leadership mirrors more of his Salt Lake Olympic legacy than his health care reform in Massachusetts.

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