Health Care Reform
While wondering around Facebook and Twitter yesterday, I saw quite a few of my conservative friends — proud members of the anti-Romney faction in the Republican Party — pointing to video from 2006 where then Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was preparing to sign RomneyCare into law.
The reason the video is getting play is because Romney notes that he collaborated with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in pushing the law through, obviously a moment that’ll make many Republican groan, and rightfully so:
The Massachusetts healthcare reform law, which — as we’ve noted many times here before, including today, served as the template for Obama. But conservatives that hammer Romney on this issue and push Newt Gingrich as the alternative are conveniently forgetting that he supported many of the same ideas that became part of RomneyCare, and later ObamaCare.
Over the weekend, Verum Serum posted audio from a May 2009 Center for Health Transformation conference call where Gingrich very clearly calls for some form of a requirement on individuals to purchase health insurance coverage:
The similarities between ObamaCare and Mitt Romney’s signature legislative achievement, the Massachusetts healthcare reform law, have been pointed out by many observers and fact-checkers. In 2010, the Cato Institute put out a video featuring David Boaz and Michael Cannon who explained the how the two laws are essentially one in the same; not just because of the individual mandate (though it’s a big part), but also the subsidies and exchanges required in the plans.
Of course, Romney denies the similarites, insists his plan was based on free market prinicples and is conservative, oftening raising the federalism argument; that his state did what was best for them. But a new study from Health Affairs, which was referenced by Rick Santorum during last Thursday’s debate, highlights the fact that RomneyCare was the model for ObamaCare:
During last night’s Florida GOP primary debate, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) blasted former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) for signing RomneyCare’s individual mandate into law in 2006. Apparently Sen. Santorum forgot that he supported individual mandates when he was running for the U.S. Senate in 1994:
Santorum and Watkins both called for a “comprehensive restructuring” of health care. But they differed sharply on what elements should comprise a basic benefits package.
Watkins would include mental health services, long-term care, prescription drug coverage, dental services and preventive care such as immunizations. Santorum would not. Both reject abortion services.
Santorum and Watkins both oppose having businesses provide health care for their employees. Instead, they would require individuals to purchase insurance. Both oppose higher taxes on alcohol or tobacco to help pay for care.
Santorum and Watkins would require individuals to buy health insurance rather than forcing employers to pay for employee benefits. Both oppose abortion services and support limits on malpractice awards. Santorum says non-economic damages should not exceed $250,000, adjusted annually for inflation, and lawyers’ contingency fees should be capped at 25 percent.
As has been noted here, almost exhaustively, Mitt Romney has a problem with conservatives. They don’t trust him. Why they distrust him more than Newt Gingrich, I don’t know. But they don’t, and with reason. And if I were running Romney’s campaign, I wouldn’t want people like Norm Coleman saying things like this when I’m trying to win over conservatives:
Mitt Romney adviser Norm Coleman, a former senator from Minnesota, predicted the GOP won’t repeal the Democrats’ healthcare reform law even if a Republican candidate defeats President Obama this November.
“You will not repeal the act in its entirety, but you will see major changes, particularly if there is a Republican president,” Coleman told BioCentury This Week television in an interview that aired on Sunday. “You can’t whole-cloth throw it out. But you can substantially change what’s been done.”
Coleman’s remarks are remarkable because every Republican candidate — including Romney — has vowed to make repealing the law a priority. Coleman is also the chairman of the American Action Network, which has urged the courts to strike down the law’s individual mandate and its Medicaid expansion.
Romney’s campaign quickly distanced itself from Coleman’s comments.
“With all due respect to Sen. Coleman, he’s wrong,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said via e-mail. “Gov. Romney can and will repeal Obamacare and is committed to doing so.”
Despite mounting evidence that Justice Elena Kagan played a role in the Obama Administration’s defense of the new health care reform law during her time as solicitor general, Chief Justice John Roberts defended her in a recent report on the judiciary:
In his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary, Roberts for the first time addressed a growing controversy about when justices should recuse themselves from cases and whether a code of conduct that covers lower-court judges should apply to the justices as well.
Roberts, in polite but firm language, made it clear that such decisions must rest with the judiciary and did not suggest any changes.
Groups on the right have demanded that Justice Elena Kagan withdraw from the court’s consideration of the case because of her work for President Obama as solicitor general. Liberal groups have called on Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself because of the conservative political activities of his wife, Virginia Thomas.
We’ve all heard Mitt Romney say time and time again, as a way to ease concerns from conservatives over his Massachusetts health care plan — the blueprint for ObamaCare, that he will work to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.
But Romney still isn’t doing himself any favors after again defending his plan from criticism, claiming that the individual mandate is a “conservative principle,” during an appearance yesterday on Fox News:
Given that the individual mandate is the chief concern of conservatives, libertarians, and tea partyers alike, that statement is sure to cast even more doubt on Romney’s sincerity on this issue. It’s also likely to turn off voters in a general election that see this in one of Obama’s campaign ad, where he’ll no doubt be touting his plan as an idea hatched by a popular conservative think tank.
Opposition to ObamaCare has been among the themes in the race for the Republican nomination. The conservative and Tea Party base of the GOP electorate is firmly against the individual mandate and other aspects of the law. And, unsurprisingly, every candidate is pledging to repeal it.
Mitt Romney has received some criticism, however, since his Massachusetts plan served as the blueprint for ObamaCare. Conservative voters have been weary of his candidacy because of this, and justifably so.
But Romney can no longer claim a monopoly on this as comments by Newt Gingrich made back in 2006 showing that he was fond on RomneyCare have recently been brought to light:
Newt Gingrich voiced enthusiasm for Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law when it was passed five years ago, the same plan he has been denouncing over the past few months as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination.
“The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system,” said an April 2006 newsletter published by Gingrich’s former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation.
The two-page “Newt Notes” analysis, found online by The Wall Street Journal even though it no longer appears on the center’s website, continued, “We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans.”
The earlier bullish comments about the Romney health care plan are another potential embarrassment for Gingrich, who is leading Romney in most national polls for the GOP nomination.
The question of whether Mitt Romney would really fight for the repeal of ObamaCare (assuming the challenges to the law fail in the Supreme Court) has been on the minds of many conservative and Tea Party voters. It’s a reason why Romney has been unable to runaway with the nomination in this very unimpressive field.
Despite guarantees that he will work to repeal the law, the distrust of Romney is legitimate. As we’ve noted before, he frequently changes positions when it’s politically convenient…and, of course, opposing ObamaCare, which was based on RomneyCare, is certainly convenient. But as Philip Klein points out, Romney has given another reason to doubt his sincerity on this issue:
Mitt Romney talks a big game about repealing Obamacare on the campaign trail these days. But in the wake of the law’s passage, he had a more modest goal: “repeal the bad and keep the good.”
That’s a line that Romney himself used at a 2010 appearance that has now resurfaced. In the video, which Ben Domenech has more on and I’ve posted below, Romney makes many of the same arguments that would be familiar to those following the GOP primary. He says that his Massachusetts plan was different because it was at the state level and argues that his plan didn’t raise taxes (I’ve rebutted those arguments before). But he also does something you’ll never hear him do these days —note the similarities between the two laws.
The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the challenge over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as ObamaCare:
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Obama’s healthcare law over a three-day span in late March.
The schedule further confirms the universal expectation that the court will issue a ruling on the healthcare law next June, at the height of the 2012 campaign.
The Supreme Court will begin on March 26 with one hour of arguments on whether it can reach a decision on the reform law before 2014. There is a possibility that a separate federal law will prevent the courts from ruling until the law’s individual mandate has taken effect.
On March 27, the justices will hear two hours of arguments on the core question of whether the mandate is unconstitutional.
And on March 28, the court will hear arguments on two issues: how much, if any, of the law’s other provisions can be upheld if the mandate is unconstitutional, and whether the health law’s Medicaid expansion is constitutional.
The individual mandate is the main issue with the law, though not the only one. Not ruling on the law until it goes into effect defeats the purpose. But as I’ve written a few times in the last couple years, the fate of this law is going to ultimately depend on what side of the bed Justice Anthony Kennedy wakes up the morning he casts his vote. In other words, don’t get your hopes up.
Via Michael Brendan Dougherty comes this video put together by a Ron Paul supporter in vain of the recent DNC ad knocking Mitt Romney for his frequent position changes. Obviously, Romney is a target, but Newt Gingrich, who as I noted yesterday has many of the same consistency issues as his rival, is also raked over the coals.
Paul’s campaign and his supporters ought to put this everywhere they can: