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Romney Calls Mandate ‘Ultimate Conservative Idea’ Repeatedly Says It Could Serve As Model For Nation

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"Romney Calls Mandate ‘Ultimate Conservative Idea’ Repeatedly Says It Could Serve As Model For Nation"

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During a speech on health policy later this afternoon, likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney is expected to say that while Massachusetts’ 2006 health care law has been successful in expanding coverage to most residents, it should not be duplicated on a national level and lay out a proposal to encourage states to deregulate insurance markets, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and develop their own unique health care policies — establishing a patchwork of different systems across the country. Romney has argued against exporting his state’s requirement to purchase health insurance coverage since his failed campaign to succeed George W. Bush in 2007 and has spoken out against a “government takeover” of health care since he first ran for office in 1994. But until recently, Romney has also advanced his belief that encouraging Americans to take responsibility for their health care costs, rather than passing the cost of coverage to society, is “the ultimate conservative idea” and “a Republican way.” “The Republican approach is to say, you know what? Everybody should have insurance. They should pay what they can afford to pay. If they need help, we will be there to help them, but no more free ride,” Romney told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on April 12, 2006 during a national media tour promoting his groundbreaking 2006 health care reform law.

During that same round of national media appearances — orchestrated by the Governor to sell his accomplishment to the nation ahead of his presidential bid — Romney was asked if he thought his plan for expanding coverage by requiring Americans to purchase health insurance should apply to the nation. He repeatedly either hinted or directly stated that it could or should. It’s a position he first adopted in his challenge to Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994. At that time, Romney said he would support a mandate on a national level if universal coverage could not be achieved through other means (such as providing tax incentives to purchase care) and would have voted for a Republican alternative to the Clinton plan offered by then Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), which included a national individual mandate. In fact, as recently as December 2007, Romney said that if other stated adopted the individual mandate it would be “a terrific idea…we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach” and endorsed the Wyden-Bennett health care proposal, which also included a national individual mandate:

- 1994: “Opposes Clinton plan. Opposes employer mandates, but would consider implementing them down the line if universal coverage is not achieved.” [Boston Globe, 6/26/1994]

- 1994: “Romney has indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. He endorsed the crime bill and refused to back Gingrich’s jejune ‘Contract with America.’ He told me he would have backed Chafee’s health care bill. ‘I’m willing to vote for things that I am not wild with,’ he said.” [New Republic, 11/7/1994]

- 2006: “How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot. Instead of thinking that the best way to cover the uninsured is by expanding Medicaid, they can instead reform insurance.” [WSJ, 4/11/2006]

- 2006: “And there may be some aspects of it that can be picked up by other states and that would be valuable for other states, perhaps even some national elements that could be adopted…Everybody in our state has to have health insurance. We`re not going to have free riders…And that`s a model which I think has some merit more generally.” [PBS, 6/5/2006]

- 2007: “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.” [Newsweek, 12/2/2007]

- 2007: “I think you’re going to find when it’s all said and done, after all these states that are the laboratories of democracy, get their chance to try their own plans, but those who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” [NBC, 12/16/2007]

- 2009: “Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured in a way that doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t put the government in the driver’s seat and allows people to own their own insurance policies and not to have to worry about losing coverage.” [CNN, 2009]

- 2009: “It’s important for us to have a stronger message as we go forward, and I think the party does have to stand up and be able to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Axelrod, you’re wrong when you say we don’t have ideas. We have a health care plan. You look at Wyden-Bennett. That’s a health care plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good health care plan — one that we support. Take a look at that one.” [NBC, 6/28/2009]

Below is a timeline of Romney’s evolution on health care reform and the individual mandate from 1994 to 2011:

1994 — Opposes Clinton’s health care plan, but would have supported a national individual mandate as an alternative:

- “Opposes Clinton plan. Opposes employer mandates, but would consider implementing them down the line if universal coverage is not achieved. Prefers subsidizing health coverage for low-income individuals and providing tax incentives to individuals, including the unemployed and the self-employed, for the purchase of health insurance….Favors requiring companies to cover preexisting conditions.” [Boston Globe, 6/26/1994]

- “Romney has indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. He endorsed the crime bill and refused to back Gingrich’s jejune ‘Contract with America.’ He told me he would have backed Chafee’s health care bill. ‘I’m willing to vote for things that I am not wild with,’ he said.” [New Republic, 11/7/1994]

1994 — Says U.S. can learn from Canada, no pre-existing condition exclusions, coverage should be subsidized:

- “The great thing about the Canadian health care system is everyone is covered. The problems are lack of choice, rationing and inferior quality. That’s why so many Canadians come here for treatment. I think we can take the best of the Canadian system – universal care – and combine it with American quality and choice. I’d do that by providing health insurance tax incentives for small businesses and individuals, forming buying cooperatives and subsidizing health care premiums for those who can’t afford it so they can have the same quality health care coverage as everyone else.” [Boston Globe, 6/28/1994]

- “I want universal coverage,” he replied. And, he said, Americans should be able to move without losing their insurance and should not be excluded because of pre-existing medical conditions. “But I am not in favor of a program that adds to our taxes or deficit,” he said, adding that he also opposed employer mandates. [Miami Herald, 11/2/1994]

2005 – 2006 — Supports the ‘ultimate conservative’ mandate to reduce uncompensated care and eliminate ‘free riders’:

- “What I am saying is if you can afford insurance and don’t get it, and you can afford care and you don’t pay for it, it is no longer appropriate for you to just pass that on to someone else“…”There are about a half a million people, some of whom can afford their own way, and they ought to be either paying their own bill or buying insurance,” he said. [TELEGRAM & GAZETTE, 6/22/2005]

- “It’s the ultimate conservative idea, which is that people have responsibility for their own care, and they don’t look to government to take of them if they can afford to take care of themselves.” [Boston Globe, 6/22/2005]

- “It’s a conservative idea,” says Romney, “insisting that individuals have responsibility for their own health care. I think it appeals to people on both sides of the aisle: insurance for everyone without a tax increase.” [USA Today, 7/5/2005]

- “So, this is really what the Democrats have talked about, a Democratic goal that we share, which is getting everybody, insured and solving the issue in a Republican way, which is applying a personal responsibility principle, reforming the market, and allowing people to buy private health care insurance, private insurance that they can take with them from job to job that’s entirely portable. So, it’s a Republican way of solving a problem which we face as a nation…The Republican approach is to say, you know what? Everybody should have insurance. They should pay what they can afford to pay. If they need help, we will be there to help them, but no more free ride.” [FOX News, 4/12/2006]

2006 – 2009 — The individual mandate is ‘transferable’ to the nationwide:

- “How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot. Instead of thinking that the best way to cover the uninsured is by expanding Medicaid, they can instead reform insurance.” [WSJ, 4/11/2006]

- “There are certain aspects of it that I think would work across the country, perhaps better in some states than others. Of course the great thing about federalism is you let a state try it and see how it works before you spread it out. [MSNBC, 4/12/2006]

- “Massachusetts is leading the way with health insurance for everyone, without a government takeover and without raising taxes,” declared Romney, who is considering a run for the presidency in 2008.” [Employee Benefit News, 6/1/2006]

- “And there may be some aspects of it that can be picked up by other states and that would be valuable for other states, perhaps even some national elements that could be adopted…Everybody in our state has to have health insurance. We`re not going to have free riders — people who can afford to buy insurance, but who decide instead just to show up at the hospital and get free care. And that`s a model which I think has some merit more generally.” [PBS, 6/5/2006]

- “I like the idea of letting states have some flexibility to develop their own programs to get more and more people insured….It’s a bit like bringing work to welfare. Bring personal responsibility to health care. Get the government out of the health care business for those 45 million uninsured, and let individuals own their own policies.” [Fox News, 4/23/2007]

- “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.” [Newsweek, 12/2/2007]

- “I think [the mandate is] a good model for other states. Maybe not every state but most…I’d think it’s a terrific idea. I think you’re going to find when it’s all said and done, after all these states that are the laboratories of democracy, get their chance to try their own plans, but those who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” [NBC, 12/16/2007]

- “We have found that we can get everybody insured without breaking the bank and without a public option,” Romney told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta. “Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured in a way that doesn’t break the bank, doesn’t put the government in the driver’s seat and allows people to own their own insurance policies and not to have to worry about losing coverage. That’s what Massachusetts did,” he said. [CNN, 10/20009]

- “It’s important for us to have a stronger message as we go forward, and I think the party does have to stand up and be able to say, ‘Listen, Mr. Axelrod, you’re wrong when you say we don’t have ideas. We have a health care plan. You look at Wyden-Bennett. That’s a health care plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good health care plan — one that we support. Take a look at that one.” [NBC, 6/28/2009]

2007-2008: Opposes a “one-size-fits all” national health care policy, but still thinks people should take “personal responsibility” for health care:

- “But we say let’s rely on personal responsibility. Help people buy their own private insurance. Get our citizens insured, not with a government takeover, not with new taxes needed, but instead with a free marketbased system that gets all of our citizens in the system. No more free rides.” [ABC GOP Debate, 8/5/2007]

- “A one-size-fits-all national healthcare system is bound to fail. It ignores the very dramatic differences between states and it relies on a Washington bureaucracy to manage.” [2007]

- “Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all, government-run system, we must recognize the importance of the role of the states in leading reform and the need for innovation in dealing with rising health care costs and the problem of the uninsured.” [Campaign site, 2008]

- “I think I’m going to be able to demonstrate to you today the conservative principles of personal responsibility and free market dynamics and choice and personal care these kinds of elements allow us to reform health care in such a way that we can solve the problems that America faces in health care without having a government takeover, without having socialized medicine with all its drawbacks and all its weaknesses.” [Florida Medical Association, 8/24/07]

2010: Claims that requiring individual to take “personal responsibility” for their health care is “unconstitutional,” unsure if he would repeal it:

- “In a scheduled interview this morning, I asked Romney if Obama’s individual mandate unconstitutional in ordering individuals to purchase a commodity. ‘I’m not enough of a judge,’ he said. ‘I think it’s unconstitutional on the 10th Amendment front.‘” [Union Leader, 4/8/2010]

- “You have stated your intention to spearhead the effort to repeal the ‘worst aspects’ of Obamacare, does this include the repeal of the individual mandate and pre-existing exclusion?” The Governor’s answer: ‘No.’ Gov. Romney went on to explain that he does not wish to repeal these aspects because of the deleterious effect it would have on those with pre-existing conditions in obtaining health insurance.” [RightOSphere blog, 4/19/2010]

2010-2011: The ‘conservative’ individual mandate is working in Massachusetts, but should not be exported nationwide. Certain that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act:

- “Ninety-eight percent of our people are insured and if we had a federal, government one-size-fits all plan, Obamacare if you will, people here in Massachusetts would have to pay more taxes, see their Medicare cut. They don’t want Obamacare. They’d rather have what we’ve got here.” [Fox News, 1/18/2010]

- “I know some people say ‘gee, your Massachusetts health care plan isn’t conservative.’ I say, ‘oh yes it is, because right now in this country people who don’t have health insurance go to the hospital if they have a serious illness and they get treated for free by government. My plan says no they can’t do that, no more free riders. People have to take personal responsibility.’” [CNN, 3/23/2010]

- “Had they brought the federal bill to my desk when I was governor, I’d have vetoed it,” Romney told an audience of 150 yesterday at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester…”We solved a problem in the state with a state answer,” Romney said. “We didn’t have the federal government come in and intrude on the rights of states.”…Romney said the federal government created its plan without learning from Massachusetts or any other state. “It shouldn’t have been put in place without experimentation,” Romney said. [Concord Monitor, 4/8/2010]

- “If ever again somewhere down the road I would be debating [President Obama], I would be happy to take credit for his accomplishment.” [NYT, 4/9/2010]

- “People often compare his plan to the Massachusetts plan,’’ Romney said in an interview last month. “They’re as different as night and day. There are some words that sound the same, but our plan is based on states solving our issues; his is based on a one-size-fits-all plan.’’ [Boston Globe, 4/30/2010]

- “I think it is a very bad piece of legislation. I think the President should have been more attuned to what we did in our own state, which is we allowed each state to create a solution to the uninsured in the way that the states thought best, that’s the way the Constitution intended it. We are a federalist system. We don’t need the federal government imposing a one-size-fits all plan on the entire nation.” [ABC, 2/1/2011]

- “I would repeal Obamacare” if elected president, he said, according to The Boston Globe. “My experience has taught me that the states are the place where healthcare programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law constitutionally, it’s bad policy, it’s bad for American families. And that’s one reason why President Obama will be a one-term president.” [Newsmax, 4/7/2011]

- “One thing I learned, is this. That you don’t take ideas from a state and try to impose them on a whole nation. Our nation is too diverse, too different to say that what works in Massachusetts is somehow going to be grabbed by the federal government, usurping the power of states and imposing a one-size-fits all plan on the nation. ” [CNBC, 4/12/2011]

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