Romney Defends Record on Health Care, Cites Obamacare Opposition

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 12, 2011   |   10:28AM   |   Washington, DC

Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is defending his record on health care in a speech today and an editorial appearing in USA Today as he comes under fire for implementing a plan in Massachusetts that critics say is similar to Obamacare.

The Obama plan that congressional Democrats railroaded through Congress contained loopholes allowing abortion funding and presented rationing concerns for pro-life groups. The plan has come under heavy criticism and is opposed by both a majority of Americans and the overwhelming majority of Republican voters who will be determining which GOP candidate takes on pro-abortion President Barack Obama in 2012.

Romney campaigned in 2008 as a pro-life candidate after seeking the governorship of Massachusetts as an abortion advocate. While some pro-life voters welcomed his conversion before the 2008 campaign, others questioned his sincerity and whether he was merely trying to win over the majority of Republican voters who take a pro-life position.

On the issue of health care, Romney now faces the same sort of skepticism. The former governor instituted a government-run health care plan in Massachusetts that was criticized for paying for most of the cost of an abortion, although Romney officials maintain a state Supreme Court decision forced that to be included. The Massachusetts plan requires individuals to purchase health care — the point that is the contention in the lawsuits states and others have filed against Obamacare.

The health care issue has dogged Romney for months and, ironically, Romney’s announcement of his exploratory committee in April came on the fifth anniversary of the Romney health care plan becoming law.

But Romney, in his speech and editorial is hoping GOP voters will focus their ire on Obamacare and not his health care plan.

In the speech, aides tell Fox News Romney will not apologize for his role in the Massachusetts law but offer a defense of it. They say he will make the case that it is far different from Obamacare and that he supports efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal that law and replace it with a state-based alternative.

Yet, in the editorial, there is barely mention of it.

“Unfortunately, with the passage of Obamacare last year, the president and the Congress took a wrong turn,” Romney said in the editorial. “ObamaCare will lead to more spending, greater federal involvement in health care and negative effects on U.S. economic activity. The president definitely forgot the admonition to “do no harm.”

“My plan is to harness the power of markets to drive positive change in health insurance and health care. And we can do so with state flexibility (unlike ObamaCare’s top-down federal approach), no new taxes (as opposed to hundreds of billions of dollars of new taxes under ObamaCare), and better consumer choice (as opposed to bureaucratic, government choice under ObamaCare). This change of direction offers our best hope of preserving both innovation and value,” Romney continues.

He promises executive orders on his first day in office allowing waivers in all 50 states and said he would call on Congress to repeal the law.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a potential Republican rival, said recently that Romney eventually has to take the issue of his health care plan head on.

“He has to say either `I love it,’ `I hate it,’ or, `Hey, I tried it, it didn’t work and that’s why I would say to you, let’s not do it nationally,'” he said.

Whatever route Romney takes during the Republican primary election to address health care, the issue will likely continue to dog him. Like abortion in 2008, it will depend on how much Romney can convince Republican voters he’s not as bad as they may think.

In 2008, Romney did well in a handful of early caucus states in the western United States, where his Mormon views yielded him the support of Republican voters in places like Nevada and Wyoming, and he won the state of Michigan, where his father previously served as governor. But he failed to win in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina and ultimately withdrew from consideration when it became clear John McCain had enough delegate votes to become the nominee.

With the Mormon issue, the abortion issue, and the health care issue likely plaguing at least some GOP voters and the desire others have for a new face that was not part of the 2008 presidential campaign, Romney has an uphill battle.