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The Romneycare Bout

1:10 AM, Oct 19, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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During tonight’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care legislation was a hot topic of discussion, as he was challenged on it more strongly than in any previous debate. Rick Santorum was the first to advance the topic, saying, “Governor Romney, you just don't have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare. You are — your plan was the basis for Obamacare. Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare. And to say that you’re going to repeal it, you just — you have no track record on that — that we can trust you that you're going to do that.” 

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Romney replied: “You know, this I think is either our eighth or ninth debate. And each chance I've had to talk about Obamacare, I've made it very clear, and also in my book. And at the time, by the way, I crafted the [Massachusetts] plan, in the last campaign, I was asked, is this something that you would have the whole nation do? And I said, no, this is something that was crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation.”

Santorum responded, “Governor, no, that’s not what you said,” adding, “It was in your book that it should be for everybody.” Rick Perry then interjected, “You took it out of your book,” and Santorum repeated that same charge, verbatim. 

Romney replied, “Let me make it very clear.” (The moderator, Anderson Cooper, then interjected and gave him 20 more seconds.)  “And — look — we’ll let everybody take a look at the fact checks,” Romney continued. “I was interviewed by Dan Balz. I was in interviewed in this debate stage with you four years ago. I was asked about the Massachusetts plan, was it something I'd impose on the nation? And the answer is absolutely not. It was something crafted for a state.”

In fact, however, as Newsweek writes, “During a speech in Baltimore on Feb. 2, 2007, Romney outlined his ambitions for the Massachusetts plan. ‘I'm proud of what we’ve done,’ he said. ‘If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.’”

At the very least, Romney has clearly viewed his efforts as a model for other states across the nation. On April 11, 2006, the day before he signed his health care legislation into law, he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (called “Health Care for Everyone? We Found a Way”), “How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot.” 

In his book, No Apology, he wrote of Ted Kennedy (on page 174 in the hardback edition), “[T]o his credit he saw an opportunity to work in a bipartisan fashion to try an experiment that might become a model for other states.” Three pages later (on page 177), Romney wrote, “From now on, no one in Massachusetts has to worry about losing his or her health insurance if there is a job change or a loss in income; everyone is insured and pays only what he or she can afford….We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country….”

ABC News reports that those last 11 words were removed in the book’s paperback version, validating Santorum’s and Perry’s claim.

The exchange continued from there. Santorum said, “Mitt, the governor of Massachusetts just is coming forward saying we have to pick up the job left undone by Romneycare, which is doing something about cutting health care costs. What you did is exactly what Barack Obama did: focused on the wrong problem. Herman [Cain] always says you’ve got to find the right problem. Well, the right problem is health care costs. What you did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs. You've blown a hole in the budget up there. And you authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country.”

Romney replied, “I’m sorry, Rick, that you find so much to dislike in my plan, but I’ll tell you, the people in Massachusetts like it by about a 3-1 margin.” But given that the people of Massachusetts voted for Barack Obama by a 26-point margin, Al Gore by a 27-point margin, and gave South Dakota senator George McGovern his sole state (by a 9-point margin), this might not be the best line of argument in a GOP race.

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