Indeed it was. RomneyCare, the big-government bureaucratic mess Mitt Romney created in Massachusetts, was in fact the model for ObamaCare, the big-government bureaucratic mess Barack Obama created in Washington. Romney, of course, continues to cry foul when this is pointed out, and that RomneyCare is actually a brilliant plan which he never intended to go national. Indeed, in Romney’s mind, RomneyCare is really a conservative scheme because of the 10th Amendment or something. To date, none of the non-Mitt candidates claiming to run for president have challenged him on this nonsense. Until last night. As the Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson writes, Rick Santorum was the first to broach the topic which hitherto, for reasons unknown to most of us, seemed to be off limits for Mitt’s erstwhile challengers:
“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.”
Romney then came back with a variation of his standard RomneyCare defense, even repeating the lie that he didn’t write what he wrote in the first version of his book:
“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.”
In a move uncharacteristic for the non-Mitts thus far, Santorum (and Rick Perry) correctly challenged Romney on his demonstrably false statement:
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.
The Mittster, momentarily flustered that someone would challenge him on his dissembling, changed the subject and awkwardly mumbled something unintelligible about fact checks, mentioned an interview he did with Dan Balz a few years ago (I’m guessing this is one interview his advisors unearthed in which Romney actually did say RomneyCare wasn’t a good idea for the nation), then returned to his standard “RomneyCare was for Massachusetts only” defense:
“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.”
Whenever I hear Romney say “let me be very clear”, I think of Barack Obama when he utters the same phrase. In both cases, I cringe and am reasonably sure that what follows will be anything but. Am I the only one? I find it amazing Romney would bring up fact checks because every time someone digs into his past, more flip-flops and irreconcilable statements emerge. At any rate, Anderson did do a little fact-checking and found several instances in which Mitt suggested RomneyCare would be a good model for a national plan:
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.
Oops. Maybe Romney should avoid calling for fact checks since they never inure to his benefit. When it was pointed out by Santorum (and others) that RomneyCare was bankrupting Massachusetts, Mitt came up with a new justification that I hadn’t yet heard:
“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.”
Anderson then suggests that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the best defense of RomneyCare for the electorate in the Republican Primaries:
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.
Good point. New Romney campaign slogan: Vote for Mitt because the citizens of Massachusetts like government-run health care. Maybe they do, but I can’t help but wonder where Mitt came up with his 3-1 margin. My guess is the database deep in his lower intestine. A grass roots movement is underway to repeal RomneyCare and, as the Washington Examiner’s Doug Bandow notes, the program has been anything but a rousing success. While it has improved access ever so slightly, it has significantly raised costs and the price controls contained therein threaten to chase private health insurers out of the state, further raising taxpayer costs as Massachusetts will be forced to take on those who lose their coverage:
Romneycare’s constitutionality does not imply that it was a wise policy. To be sure, it has caused about 95 to 96 percent of Massachusetts residents to be insured. But 90 percent or more were insured before the law passed.
And so Gov. Romney’s accomplishment was actually quite modest. But the cost has been anything but.
Last year Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill wrote that Romneycare “was projected to cost taxpayers $88 million a year. However, since this program was adopted in 2006, our health-care costs have in total exceeded $4 billion.”
Romneycare spread the financial pain widely. In June, the Beacon Hill Institute estimated higher costs of $8.6 billion since the law was implemented. Just $414 million was paid by Massachusetts.
Medicaid (federal payments) covered $2.4 billion. Medicare took care of $1.4 billion. Even more costs, $4.3 billion, have been imposed on the private sector — employers, insurers and residents.
As expenses have risen, so have insurance premiums. Economists John F. Cogan, Glenn Hubbard, and Daniel Kessler estimate that Romneycare inflated premiums by 6 percent from 2006 to 2008.
Gov. Romney’s signature policy achievement is a bust. His health care failure raises doubts that he is the Republicans’ best choice for president.
Bandow also notes that federal taxpayers pick up a significant part of the bill, and that Romney was for a federal health care mandate in 1994 when he ran against Ted Kennedy. We are talking about Massachusetts, but even so I find it hard to believe their citizens like this disaster by a 3-1 margin. If they like it so much, why are they trying to repeal it? In any event, the Weekly Standard’s Anderson has much more on the non-Mitt candidates’ decision to finally go after the Plastic Man in last night’s debate here.
Update: Great find from Abby4 in the comments. In April of 2010, Romney indicated he’d be more than happy to take credit for ObamaCare, via Rich Lowry at the National Review:
How Romney handles the health-care issue going forward will be a ticklish challenge. I’m pretty sure, though, that this is not the way to do it. From the Sunday New York Times:
“I keep on scratching my head,” Mr. Obama said at a fund-raising reception in Boston. “I say, ‘Boy, this Massachusetts thing, who designed that?’ ”
In response, Mr. Romney is reminding audiences that Mr. Obama has cast the Republicans as the “party of no,” devoid of ideas. “And yet,” Mr. Romney said in Bedford, “he’s saying that I was the guy that came up with the idea for what he did. He can’t have it both ways.”
He added, “If ever again somewhere down the road I would be debating him, I would be happy to take credit for his accomplishment.”
Wow. And Rich Lowry is a Mitt man. That was just last year. How many more of these nuggets are sitting on the shelf at the DNC, just waiting to be dropped in a Democrat campaign commercial?