Romney: Some Parts of RomneyCare Aren't Perfect, but Let's Not Say Which Parts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 7 2011 9:28 AM

Romney: Some Parts of RomneyCare Aren't Perfect, but Let's Not Say Which Parts

On Saturday, at the Carroll County Lincoln Day dinner, Mitt Romney broached the topic he avoided at CPAC: Health care reform. The health care remarks were a micro-speech of sorts, following the Romney format -- joke, seriousness, by-the-way-isn't-this-Obama-fella-a-schmuck.

Joke!

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Living in New Hampshire, you’ve heard of our healthcare program next door in Massachusetts. You may have noticed that the President and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts healthcare than Entertainment Tonight spends talking about Charlie Sheen.

Seriousness!

Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts. What we did was what the Constitution intended for states to do—we were one of the laboratories of democracy. 

Our experiment wasn’t perfect—some things worked, some didn’t, and some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover. 

Obama-bashing!

I would repeal Obamacare, if I were ever in a position to do so.  My experience has taught me that states are where healthcare programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families.

The federal government isn’t the answer for running healthcare any more than it’s the answer for running Amtrak or the Post Office. An economy run by the federal government doesn’t work for Europe and it won’t work here. 

And that's it for health care for now. There's enough meat on the bone to get us hacks talking about it, not nearly enough to convince critics that he gets it. "The states are laboratories of democracy?" Great, no one disputes that. But the beef with Obamacare isn't just that it's unconstitutional. It fines people for failing to buy insurance. So does "RomneyCare." Let's revisit how Romney deals with this:

Our experiment wasn’t perfect—some things worked, some didn’t, and some things I’d change.

Well, that's helpful. The problem is that Romney defended the mandate for a very long time before opposing it became part of conservative orthodoxy. He'll repeal ObamaCare? Great. But as a federalist he'll allow states to develop single payer or mandate-based universal health care plans. If I'm a Republican primary voter in, say, Vermont, I worry about this.

People have long memories about this stuff. I asked Andrew Ian Dodge, the Maine Tea Party activist and current Senate candidate against Olympia Snowe, what he thought of Romney's speech.

"So the guy who created the socialized medicine that was partly the basis for Obamacare is the only person who can dismantle Obamacare? " asked Dodge. "That makes no sense."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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