He simply has to come clean on Romneycare.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s narrow win in the Iowa caucuses and his lead in the New Hampshire primary could catapult him to the GOP presidential nomination, but if he is to have any hope of gaining favor with conservative voters to get elected in November, he must escape the chains of Romneycare.
Romney has been unwilling to repudiate the health reform he signed into law in 2006, complete with the hugely unpopular individual mandate. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows only 15 percent of the American people think the government should have the power to require citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
That’s what Obamacare will do — barring a Supreme Court repudiation — and that’s what Romneycare already does.
In a November interview on Fox News, Romney got testy when anchor Bret Baier asked him, “Do you think a mandate, mandating people to buy insurance, is the right tool?” Romney replied, impatiently, “What we did in Massachusetts was right for Massachusetts. I’ve said that time and time again.… This is not a federal plan, it’s a state plan.”
Romney is stubbornly defensive about his universal coverage law, poking a finger in the eye of Republican voters who rightly see it as the platform for President Obama’s takeover of health care. John McDonough, who helped design both Romneycare and then Obamacare, said the federal law is “Massachusetts with three more zeros.”
Democratic pollster Patrick Caddell is among those insisting the health law will continue to be a huge issue in the 2012 election. Romney’s defenses just aren’t convincing, and as a result, voters distrust him on what he would do next in this crucial area. There is a way out of this box for Romney, but first, let’s look at some examples of his current strategy and why it isn’t working:
• Repeal and Replace — with Romneycare? In the October 11, 2011 debate, Romney said: “…we all agree about repeal and replace. And I’m proud of the fact that I’ve put together a plan that says what I’m going to replace it with.”
He says he wants to repeal and replace Obamacare, but then he says what he would replace it with is Romneycare! No wonder voters are worried. Does he really mean that he wants to use Massachusetts as a model for his “replacement” plan?
• Waivers for the states. Romney has said repeatedly that one of his first acts as president would be to “put out an executive order granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states.”
But Romney can’t use an executive order to wipe out a massive new federal entitlement program and its huge taxpayer subsidies for health insurance, a vast expansion of Medicaid coverage, the Medicare rationing board, $550 billion in new and higher taxes, $575 billion in cuts to Medicare, and federal mandates on individuals, businesses, and the states to comply with the law. These are all part of the federal health overhaul law and simply cannot be waived by executive order.
The Congressional Research Service sent a letter to Sen. Coburn in November confirming this. “A President would not appear to be able to issue an executive order halting statutorily-required programs or mandatory appropriations… [or blocking] an agency from promulgating a rule that is statutorily required by PPACA,” the CRS concluded.
So Romney’s campaign slogan is calling for an action that simply would not be legal. Waivers are not a solution and, in fact, might well detract from the ultimate goal of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a genuine free market alternative.
• Mimicking Obama. When Romney says he wants to give states more discretion in implementing Obamacare, there is very little daylight between his position and President Obama’s.
The president has said Congress should pass legislation to accelerate the provision in the law that would allow states more flexibility in implementing the health law starting in 2017, arguing Congress should move the date forward to 2014. That is precisely Romney’s position. Not much room for debate there.
• Individual mandate affects everyone. Romney seems especially proud of the individual mandate requiring all residents to have health insurance as “the ultimate conservative idea.”
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