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Did Romney Support a Federal Mandate During the Obamacare Debate?

9:01 AM, Mar 3, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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As BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reports, USA Today published a health care op-ed by Mitt Romney on July 30, 2009 — just days before the start of the August recess that quickly became the August uprising against Obamacare. In his op-ed, Romney seems to encourage President Obama to move in a slower and more bipartisan manner, to abandon his planned government-run “public option” (which, under constituent pressure, the Democrats eventually did scrap), to use Romney’s Massachusetts health care overhaul as something of a model, and (as a way to keep Obamacare’s costs down) to include a federal mandate. 

Mitt Romney

Romney wrote:

“Health care is simply too important to the economy, to employment and to America’s families to be larded up and rushed through [Congress] on an artificial deadline. There’s a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it.

“No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts….Shortly after becoming governor, I worked in a bipartisan fashion with Democrats to insure all our citizens….For health care reform to succeed in Washington, the president must finally do what he promised during the campaign: Work with Republicans as well as Democrats.

“Massachusetts also proved that you don’t need government insurance. Our citizens purchase private...insurance. There is no ‘public option.’…

“Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank.  First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others....”

Roughly eight months later, in the immediate aftermath of Obamacare’s passage, Romney called for repealing “the worst aspects of Obamacare,” saying that he hoped we could ultimately “repeal the bad and keep the good.” When comparing his Massachusetts health care overhaul with Obamacare at that time, Romney said, “I like some of the similarities.”

Since then, Romney seems to have come around to full repeal. Moreover, he now argues that an individual mandate is unconstitutional at the federal level, while still defending such mandates at the state level.

The problem for Romney, both with his apparent prior support for a federal mandate and his ongoing defense of state-based mandates, is that Ohio voters recently rejected all such mandates in rather emphatic fashion. Just four months ago, Buckeye State voters supported a ballot measure that said, in part, “In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.” Even though the vote was among all Ohio voters and not merely those who will be voting in the upcoming Republican primary, the measure passed by a whopping 32 percentage points (66 to 34 percent), won in all 88 of Ohio’s counties, and won in 81 of those counties by margins of at least 20 points.

The Ohio Republican primary will be held on Tuesday.

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