Why Romney’s state experiment in health care necessarily has national implications.
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In addition to undermining the arguments for repeal, Romney could also derail the Republicans’ plans for Medicare reform. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has proposed transforming Medicare into a premium support system. Romney in Ann Arbor on his Massachusetts health law: “We gave people a premium support program where they could buy their own private insurance of their choice, and for the poor, we helped them with support.” Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein has already argued that Ryan’s “plan basically turns Medicare into the Affordable Care Act” signed by Obama.
To recap: what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts may not raise the same constitutional questions as what Barack Obama did nationally. But many of the people who helped devise the Massachusetts law had similar designs nationally. Romney is making arguments about Massachusetts that are nearly identical to what Obama has argued nationally, while disqualifying himself from arguing for Obamacare’s repeal based on Masscare’s failures. He is instead reminding people of the individual mandate’s Republican pedigree at a time when arguments against its constitutionality are gaining momentum. And he wants to take credit for running a laboratory of democracy while denying his experiments have any national consequences.
Maybe federalism can trump all that. More likely, conservatives will agree with the Wall Street Journal: “If [Romney] does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.” And swing voters may channel Jon Gruber. “[Romney’s] the one person who deserves the most credit for the national plan we ended up with,” Gruber told Newsweek. “And yet he’s railing against it. Does the guy believe in anything?”
Romney’s “no apologies” health care speech may have reinforced the very reaction it was intended to avoid.
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