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‘It’s Not Worth Getting Angry About’

Tell that to the Tea Party.

1:15 AM, Jan 27, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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More than anyone else during any of the previous Republican presidential debates, Rick Santorum took dead aim tonight at the similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare. Arguing that those similarities could pose great problems for the Republican party and for the prospects for repeal if Mitt Romney were to win the nomination, Santorum implored GOP voters to remember, “We can’t give this issue away in this election.” 

Mitt Romney

The exchange over Romneycare and Obamacare began when Santorum responded to a health care question from an audience member. He said, “Governor Romney was the author of Romneycare, which is a top-down government-run health care system which, [I] read [in] an article today, has 15 different items directly in common with Obamacare, everything from the increase in the Medicaid program…to [the] mandate you buy something [as] a condition of breathing, [the] mandate that you buy an insurance policy….”

Santorum argued that Romney’s Massachusetts health care overhaul is “pretty much a model for what Obamacare is going to look like: the highest health care costs in the country, 27 percent above the average...[and] 94 percent of the people in Massachusetts are now insured, but there was just a survey that came out and said one in four don’t get the care they need because of the high cost. So, you have a card, you’re covered, but you can’t get care.”

In his book, No Apology, Romney admitted that getting “overall health-care costs for everyone [in Massachusetts] to actually go down…is the task that remains.” However, in response to Santorum’s critique, Romney stood by Romneycare: 

“The system that we put in place in our state was something we worked out with the labor community, the health care community, business, and the citizens of the nation. We came together, it was voted [on] by a 200-person legislature. Only two voted no.

“Our system has a lot of flaws, a lot of things I'd do differently. It has a lot of benefits. The people of the state like it by about three to one.”

Romney didn’t mention that the people of that state also voted for Barack Obama by nearly two to one.

Without having said how Romneycare differs from Obamacare, Romney concluded by saying, “We consider it very different than Obamacare.” He then shifted his focus to Obamacare itself, saying, “If I were president, [on] day one I will take action to repeal Obamacare. It’s bad medicine. It’s bad economy. I’ll repeal it.”

He added, “I believe the people of each state should be able to craft programs that they feel are best for their people. I think ours is working pretty well.”

Santorum pounced:

“What Governor Romney just said is that government-run top-down medicine is working pretty well in Massachusetts, and he supports it. Now, think about what that means — going up against Barack Obama…you are going to claim, well, top-down government-run medicine on the federal level doesn’t work, and we should repeal it. And he’s going to say, wait a minute, Governor. You just said that top-down government-run medicine in Massachusetts works well.

Santorum added, “Folks, we can’t give this issue away in this election. It is about fundamental freedom.”

Romney then replied by issuing a defense of Romneycare that sounded a lot like the defense that Obama (who might have even been taking notes) is likely to give of Obamacare:  “I didn’t say I’m in favor of top-down government-run health care.  Ninety-two percent of the people in my state had insurance before our plan went in place.” (For Obamacare, it’s nearly the same percentage of people, only nationwide)  “And nothing changes for them.  They own the same private insurance they had before.” (As Obama likes to say, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”) “And for the 8 percent of people who didn't have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan.”  (The same is true for Obamacare — except, as in Romneycare, for the large numbers of people who get shuttled onto Medicaid.)  “There’s no government plan.”  (There isn’t one in Obamacare either, as the public outcry caused the “public option” to be nixed.)

Referring to the individual mandate, Romney added, “We are insisting on personal responsibility.”

Santorum responded, “Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?” 

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