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The Romneycare Bout

1:10 AM, Oct 19, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Shortly thereafter, Romney added, “Now, I can tell you this, it’s absolutely right that there’s a lot that needs to be done. And I didn’t get the job done in Massachusetts in getting the health care costs down in this country. It’s something I think we have got to do at the national level. I intend to do that.”

He then reiterated his support for repeal: “But one thing is for sure. What Obama has done is imposed on the nation a plan that will not work, that must be repealed.”

Cooper then said to Newt Gingrich, “Speaker Gingrich, you’ve also been very critical of Mitt Romney’s plan…on Obamacare….”

In perhaps the most blistering health care critique of the night, Gingrich responded, “The Boston Herald today reported that the state of Massachusetts is fining a local small business $3,000 because their $750-a-month insurance plan is inadequate, according to the bureaucrats in Boston. Now, there’s a fundamental difference between trying to solve the problems of this country from the top down and trying to create environments in which doctors and patients and families solve the problem from the bottom up. And candidly, Mitt, your plan ultimately, philosophically, it’s not Obamacare, and that’s not a fair charge. But your plan essentially is one more big government, bureaucratic, high-cost system, which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medi[caid] program as lavish as yours, and no other state got as much money from the federal government under the Bush administration for this experiment. So there’s a lot of big government behind Romneycare — not as much as Obamacare, but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting."

Romney and Gingrich then went back and forth on the extent to which the individual mandate could be traced to Gingrich. Romney claimed, “Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you.” Gingrich replied, “Wait a second.  What you just said is not true. You did not get that from me. You got it from the Heritage Foundation.”  And shortly thereafter, Gingrich acknowledged that he’d supported the Heritage Foundation’s individual mandate proposal “against Hillarycare.”

Romney continued, “[W]e don’t have a government insurance plan [in Massachusetts]. What we do is rely on private insurers, and people — 93 percent of our people who are already insured, nothing changed. For the people who didn’t have insurance, they get private insurance, not government insurance.” 

The problem with this response is (A) it could just as easily be used as a defense of Obamacare, and (B) it’s partially false. 

Obamacare also doesn’t have “a government insurance plan”; its proposed government-run “public option” initially galvanized public opposition more than any other single feature of the overhaul, and as a result the Democrats eventually abandoned it. In his book, expecting a public option to be part of Obamacare, Romney emphasized this as a key distinction between his own efforts and Obama’s (page 176): “In 2009, the national health-care policy supported by President Barack Obama was often and erroneously reported as being based up on [sic] the plan we had enacted in Massachusetts. There were some very big differences — in particular, our plan did not include a public insurance option.”  But, in the end, neither does Obama’s. 

(In another sense, Obamacare does have a government insurance plan, in that it calls for a colossal expansion of Medicaid, extending it into parts of the middle class. But the Massachusetts health care legislation also significantly expanded Medicaid.)

Romney’s 93 percent claim is false and is akin to saying that for the 90 percent of Americans who were already insured (pre-Obamacare), nothing will change under Obamacare. Both in Massachusetts and under Obamacare, however, essentially everyone — not just 7 or 10 percent of residents — is forced to buy government-approved health insurance under penalty of law. Moreover, those who already have insurance risk losing their preexisting insurance, face the certain prospect of losing some of their liberty as the government takes over an increased portion of their lives, and have to contend with even faster rising health costs — which we have seen in Massachusetts and which the Medicare chief actuary predicts we’ll see under Obamacare.

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