Liberal websites like Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post have been buzzing recently about a 2009 op-ed written by Romney in USA Today. In the USA Today op-ed, Romney’s detractors allege that “Romney advocated a federal/nationwide mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance.”
This claim has been brought up again and again by Romney’s opponents, and while we here at Mitt Romney Central are certainly grateful for the increased traffic these websites and bloggers have brought to our site, we certainly feel it necessary to set the record straight.
For those interested in reading the op-ed in question, be my guest, but before you do, you may want to read the op-ed Romney wrote for Newsweek magazine just two months prior where Romney explains much more clearly his proposals on health care.
In the Newsweek op-ed, Romney provides a much more detailed explanation about his health care plans as well as what he meant when he said “penalties” would help people purchase health insurance. The Newsweek op-ed, aptly entitled Health Care: The Answer is Unleashing Markets – Not Government, states:
The right answer for health care is to apply more market force, not less. Here’s how:
1. Get everyone insured. Help low-income households retain or purchase private insurance with a tax credit, voucher or coinsurance. Use the tens of billions we now give hospitals for free care to instead help people buy and keep their own private insurance. For the uninsured who can afford insurance but expect to be given free care at the hospital, require them to either pay for their own care or buy insurance; if they do neither, they would forgo the tax credit or lose a deduction. No more “free riders.”
Notice that Romney states quite directly what he means by “using penalties to encourage people to buy health insurance.” What Romney is saying is that those who don’t purchase health insurance lose the opportunity to gain a “tax credit” or “deduction.” In much the same way, homeowners get a tax deduction for the interest paid on their house payments, or how students can get a tax credit on certain student loans. Romney is not advocating a “mandate” of the type Obama used where people are fined for not purchasing insurance, and Romney is certainly not advocating a FEDERAL mandate of any kind if you read the next paragraph of the Newsweek op-ed which states:
6. Center reforms at the state level. Open the door to state plans designed to meet the various needs of their citizens. Before imposing a one-size-fits-all federal program, let the states serve as “the laboratories of democracy.”
How much clearer can Romney be? This op-ed, written just two months before the op-ed in question, shows that Romney wanted health care reform to be at the state level, and for states to enact tax deductions or credits as incentives for people to purchase health insurance. (Just for the record, this is exactly the same plan Ronald Reagan was looking into).
Fact-Checkers Also Support Romney
Fact-checkers have also looked into the issue of whether or not Romney wanted RomneyCare to be a “model for the nation.” (Believe it or not, this is a topic that has been raised more than once). All three fact-check organizations looked into this claim and all three found that Romney has NOT advocated a national mandate at the federal level. The conclusion from Politifact is here, the FactCheck summary is here, and the Washington Post article is here. It is very clear to those who have taken the time to investigate this issue that Romney has never changed his position in regard to health care reform. For those in the press to continue repeating this falsehood shows a true lack of journalistic integrity. Romney has always spoken in favor of state-led initiatives where the each state is free to adopt whatever policies will work best for that particular state.
How Consistent has Romney been on Health Care Reform?
Byron York, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner, summarized it best when he said this:
On many, many occasions, Romney said he believes Romneycare is a model for some states to follow but would not be a model for all states and certainly not for a federal plan.
“I think it’s a great plan, but I’m a federalist,” Romney said on “Meet the Press” in December 2007. “I don’t believe in applying what works in one state to all states if different states have different circumstances.”
In that 2007 interview, Romney pointed out that a relatively small number, 7 percent, of the Massachusetts population was uninsured. “Texas has 25 percent,” he said. “Given the kind of differences between states, I’m not somebody who is going to say, ‘What I did in Massachusetts I’m going to now tell every state they have to do it the same way.’”
But as much as he stressed federalism, Romney also stressed that he would be happy to see many states adopt his plan. “I think it’s a good model for other states,” he continued. “Maybe not every state but most.” At the federal level, Romney said he would “give every state the same kind of flexibility we got from the federal government.” That’s the Romney position, then and now.
Romney wants the same kind of flexibility for other states that “he had” because Romney received special approval from the federal government (the Bush Administration at the time), to bring about the Massachusetts health care reform plan now known as “RomneyCare.” The federal government allowed for Massachusetts to spend federal dollars in a totally different way than any other state was allowed to do at the time. Romney got approval to use Medicaid money to not just pay for health care services, but to help the poor buy a health insurance policy from a private insurance company. In order to give each state the same flexibility and freedom that he had, Romney wants to “block grant” all Medicaid funding to the states so that states don’t have the excessive rules and regulations that typically come with accepting money from the federal government.
Since the passage of RomneyCare in 2006, Romney has been consistent regarding his plan for other states: States are free to adopt some, all, or none of the MA health care plan.
Here is an interview with Gov. Romney on NPR on April 8, 2006 shortly after RomneyCare was passed where he said this:
Q: Stepping back, what impact do you think this will have outside Massachusetts?
A: Around the country, people are watching because they know this is big. Some on the far left don’t like it because it’s not a single-payer universal coverage program. Some on the far right don’t like it because they don’t like government telling people that they need to get insurance. But the great majority of people, both on the left and the right, believe that this is a step forward.
Q: Can this model be used in other states?
A: My guess is a lot of states will choose to adopt one or another of the measures we’ve put in place here. But most will give it a little time and watch to see what our experience is. That’s the great thing about having 50 states and the principle of federalism. Let us experiment ourselves. Let us learn from one another.
Romney believes that states should have the power to experiment and innovate by giving them Medicaid funds without all the regulations. Additionally, states can be encouraged to innovate by offering “innovation grants” to states that come up with the most promising plans on how to lower costs or increase access to health care in their particular state. These innovation grants would help pay for the cost of implementing the new policy.
Here is what Romney says in his book, No Apology:
“My own preference is to let each state fashion its own program to meet the distinct needs of its citizens. States could follow the Massachusetts model if they choose, or they could develop plans of their own. These plans, tested in the state ‘laboratories of democracy,’ could be evaluated, compared, improved upon, and adopted by others.”
Romney’s health care policies remain the same today as they have from the beginnning. Romney’s health care plan for America is simply to give each state the same freedom that he had in Massachusetts to innovate and design their own unique health care policies by block granting Medicaid funds and providing “innovation grants.” From the outset Romney has said that states are free to adopt some, all, or none of the Massachusetts health care law and that the MA health care model would not work in all states. Romney has always emphasized state-level initiatives to improve health care and certainly never advocated a federal plan.
To find out more about RomneyCare, including a discussion about individual mandates, be sure to peruse our new “RomneyCare FAQ” page here.
Also, no discussion of Romney’s health care proposals would be complete without mentioning Romney’s recent success in Medicare Reform by garnering co-sponsors from some of the most respected leaders of congress, such as Paul Ryan. Click here for more detail.