So how does Mitt Romney, the architect of RomneyCare, attack ObamaCare from this point forward?
Until now, Romney has claimed that the individual mandate is fine as policy when implemented at the state level. In fact, he has said repeatedly that he believes he did the right thing as governor of Massachusetts.
In a GOP debate in January, for example, Romney defended his plan on its merits, arguing that “everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.”
However, while Romney argued that such an approach was right for Massachusetts, he also argued that it would be unconstitutional to implement it at the federal level. That was his get-out-of-jail card; that was the core of the distinction that he attempted to draw between RomneyCare and ObamaCare:
What was good policy at the state level was unconstitutional at the federal level.
Except that as we now know, it’s not. Romney’s argument has been rendered null and void by today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the mandate and the tax penalty used to enforce it.
Romney could, I suppose, try to seize upon the court’s description of the penalty as a tax to try to explain how his plan was different. U.S. Sen. Lindsay Thomas, in an appearance on Fox News this afternoon, was already pitching that line, claiming that “the issue is no longer about health care; it’s about taxes.”
Unfortunately for that line of argument, the tax penalty levied under RomneyCare on those who refuse to buy health insurance differs from that under ObamaCare only by degree, and not in a way friendly to Romney. You see, the maximum tax penalty in RomneyCare, at $1,212, is considerably higher than the maximum of $695 under ObamaCare.
Of course, none of this means that Romney won’t keep attacking the federal plan so clearly modeled after his own strategy. It just means that he won’t be able to do so credibly or logically.
– Jay Bookman