Republicans have long sought to portray the employer responsibility requirement in the Affordable Care Act as a “job killing” measure that would undermine economic growth and encourage businesses to drop coverage. Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — whose 2006 health care law levies a modest fee on businesses that fail to provide insurance — publicly opposes the requirement and vetoed the provision in his state law before it was reinstated by the Massachusetts legislature.
But according to Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Romney had initially signaled that he could live with an employer requirement as part of a compromise between the Massachusetts House and Senate to avoid levying a payroll tax on businesses that would have helped finance the expansion of coverage. In fact, state lawmakers said they felt sandbagged by Romney’s ultimate decision to veto the measure:
Asked if there were any partys of the bill he would veto, he said he still needed to review it all but, “We are where we’d hoped we’d be.” Didn’t he consider the penalty on employers a tax, as antitax activists did? And hadn’t he pledged to veto any taxes? “It’s not a tax hike,” Romney responded. “It’s a fee. It’s an assessment.” Businesses and workers who purchased health insurance already paid an assessment to help fund the “free care” pool, he noted, and “it makes sense to expand this assessment.” [...]
Toward the end, he was asked again: was he really okay with the new employer penalty? Romney said he was relieved that what he had feared most—a new, broad-based payroll tax on employers—was not in the plan. That was something, he said, that he “definitely would have been unable to sign.” “This,” he continued, “is of a different nature.”
Romney eventually described the fee as “unnecessary and probably counterproductive,” but employer coverage has generally increased in Massachusetts, as more private employers are now offering coverage than did before reform was enacted.