Today, Romney tries to remove his RomneyCare weakness

Yesterday it was Newt Gingrich; today, the political spotlight turns to another Republican vying for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination, Mitt Romney. And the spotlight is particularly bright because Romney today is making a two-pronged effort to attack the central weakness in his candidacy: health care.

It’s a weakness because, as just about everyone knows by now, Romney as governor of Massachusetts pushed for and signed into law a health reform that’s similar in many ways to the one President Obama pushed for and signed into law. ObamaCare has been such an animating concern on the right that RomneyCare is a huge, maybe insurmountable, obstacle for Romney.

Unless, of course, Romney can explain satisfactorily why his plan for Massachusetts was not only substantively but philosophically different from Obama’s plan for the whole country (or, I suppose, unless the rest of the GOP field is so weak as to not be able to take advantage of this weakness in Romney’s candidacy). Which brings us to that two-pronged effort.

First is an op-ed in USA Today in which Romney pledges, if elected, to “issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare.”

In its place, Romney offers five steps which he describes as “based on the same philosophical tenets as the reforms I offered during my last presidential campaign in 2008, [namely to] return power to the states, improve access by slowing health care cost increases, and make health insurance portable and flexible for today’s economy.”

Read the whole thing for a fuller explanation of those five steps. But — spoiler alert! — the closest he comes to drawing a distinction between RomneyCare and ObamaCare comes under Step 1, which relates to empowering states to find their own ways to take care of “citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill”:

This reform speaks to the central advantage of our federalist system — that different states will experiment with and settle on the solutions that suit their residents best. Some states might pass a plan like the one we did in Massachusetts, while others will choose an altogether different route.

The federalism argument is a potentially powerful one, although it does leave open questions about why Gov. Romney favored an Obama-like approach for Massachusetts; the early returns, as represented by today’s hard-hitting, critical editorial in The Wall Street Journal, suggest he hasn’t answered those questions very well to date. And even if Romney had answered those questions, his federalism argument, at least as it’s made in Romney’s op-ed, is not made very powerfully.

For that, look to Romney’s 2 p.m. speech at the University of Michigan. But this preview of the speech, by a Romney aide quoted at National Review Online, doesn’t inspire much confidence in me that the speech will differ appreciably from the op-ed as far as making RomneyCare more palatable to GOP voters.

An old political saw holds that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. A corollary might be that if you’re doing your best to avoid explaining, you’re losing even worse.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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142 comments Add your comment

maude

May 12th, 2011
9:57 am

like he’s lancing a furuncle boil.

Moderate Line

May 12th, 2011
9:59 am

There are times who the parties pick there is no affect on the outcome of the election. In 2008 the Democrats were going to win no matter what. In 2012 I don’t expect a similiar situation. Obama is beatable but not a pushover. The Republicans chances will increase or decrease based on the canidate appeal to moderate. The Republicans may make the same mistake the Dems made in 2004 when they were over confident and believe they Bush was weak. Unless the economy starts tanking I don’t think the Rep will defeat Obama easily.

From the polls it is obvious who the Rep pick will matter.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/president_obama_vs_republican_candidates.html

Don't Tread

May 12th, 2011
10:07 am

I suppose government mandated anything is great as long as the state government is the one doing it.

This tends to validate my reasons why I didn’t vote for lim the last time.

Don't Tread

May 12th, 2011
10:08 am

er that should be “him”

Metro Coach

May 12th, 2011
10:33 am

His assertion that “its the states’ job to experiment” is correct. Not sure if he said that in the article you quoted, but it was in another piece last week. However, the general idea of his healthcare experiment does not compute with conservative ideals. Not excited about any candidate as of yet. I like Herman Cain, and would be very interested to see how the African American community would react to the Cain/Obama match up, but I don’t believe Cain can win the primary. Weak field so far.

jt

May 12th, 2011
10:35 am

The R versus D charade grows tiresome.

For the benefit of all “special educated”(government schooled) Americans,
the parties should be OFFICIALLY merged.

This will facilitate more efficient division of the nation’s wealth amongst the gang of 525.

And everyone should just get over their silly aversion to slavery…………….it is for the collective good.

Tall

May 12th, 2011
10:37 am

“An old political saw holds that if you’re explaining, you’re losing. A corollary might be that if you’re doing your best to avoid explaining, you’re losing even worse.”

Mr. Wingfield:

Good commentary. Your last passage sums up your column very well. Romney won’t last long in the primaries.

Jack

May 12th, 2011
10:52 am

Romney’s providing grist for all the local columnists today. Newt gets a day off.

JP

May 12th, 2011
11:05 am

Kyle – is there any even-handed analysis of RomneyCare out there? Was it a complete disaster? What are the metrics around it?

Ayn Rant

May 12th, 2011
11:14 am

Romney is a millionaire and a crafty politician by inheritance, and a Republican and a hypocrite by instinct. He’ll tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to know. Don’t trust him!

He raises the “states rights” bull as a defense against his faux pas of supporting universal health care for Massachusetts even before the federal government got around to doing it for the whole country.

Health care is a basic human need. Why do poor people in prosperous, enlightened states like Massachusetts deserve health care, but poor people in poor, ignorant southern states don’t?

What’s the sense of different laws for different states? Americans move around from state-to-state, and many American families span several states. Why would an Iowan behave differently if he were in Kansas or Nebraska, or an Alabaman if he were in Mississippi or South Carolina.

States are anachronisms. State boundaries are inappropriate for administrative purposes: what the sense of having one state the size of Rhode Island and another the size of Alaska? What’s the sense of having one state with a population of 35 million (California) and another with less than ¾ million (Alaska)? What’s the sense of 50 comical state legislatures when we have a more powerful, slightly less corrupt, Federal Congress to watch?

brad

May 12th, 2011
11:20 am

JP, we can’t let facts get in the way of emotional talking points.

[...] GlobeThe Caucus: Romney Confronts Health CareNew York Times (blog)Christian Science Monitor -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -The Associated Pressall 645 news articles [...]

Birdz of a Feather

May 12th, 2011
11:29 am

Jump off a bridge, Romney!

You and Barack Osama deserve one another.

RON PAUL 2012 !

carlosgvv

May 12th, 2011
11:54 am

Ayn Rant – “healthcare is a basic human need”

Actually, the big healthcare insurers see it somewhat differently. Healthcare is only for those who can pay hefty premiums for shoddy coverage and watch those premiums go up 10 to 12% every year. And, doing their part to keep the politicians covered in cash insures this will not ever change.

Bart Abel

May 12th, 2011
11:57 am

Romney isn’t the only one who was for federal health insurance mandates and subsidies for the poor before he was against them. Among others, Newt Gingrich, Jim DeMint, and the Heritage Foundation advocated on behalf of this approach to health care reform.

In fact, health insurance mandates were a Republican idea. Republicans supported them until the day Obama embraced them. Then, they suddenly became “unconstitutional”, “socialism”, an assault on freedom, and all the rest.

Linda

May 12th, 2011
12:01 pm

Health insurance does not equal health care. The health care bill did not mandate doctors work 24/7.

The changes to health care in Massachusetts since state-wide health care was passed include:
*many doctors don’t accept Mass Health (Medicaid), Commonwealth Care nor Commonwealth Choice,
*there is a serious primary care physician shortage,
*doctors are strained,
*over half of primary care physicians aren’t taking new patients, especially those with low reimbursement plans,
*the average wait time has increased to 7 weeks for non-emergency internal medical appts.
*the average wait time has increased to 24 days for pediatricians,
*ER visits have remained high.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/09/us-usa-massachusetts-healthcare-idUSTRE74808920110509

John

May 12th, 2011
12:15 pm

“the closest he comes to drawing a distinction between RomneyCare and ObamaCare comes under Step 1, which relates to empowering states to find their own ways to take care of “citizens who are poor, uninsured or chronically ill”:”

Kyle, this whole argument is false. If you recall, in late February or early March, President Obama challenged governors who oppose his health care reforms to come up with a better alternative. He has agreed to move up the date at which states can offer their own solutions and thus opt out of requirements that they oppose, like the mandate that everyone buy health insurance and that most employers provide it. As long as a state’s plan covers as many people as the federal law does, provide insurance that is as comprehensive and affordable, and not increase the deficit.

How many states have you heard taking him up on his challenge? If the states have better ideas, where are their plans?

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 12th, 2011
12:43 pm

Your Idiot Messiah won’t be able to do what he challenged the states to do, either–give parasites free healthcare while at the same time lowering costs and increasing coverage requirements, so it is a bogus challenge. If you believe Obozocare will work as promised, then you are a complete moron and a chump.

jose

May 12th, 2011
12:47 pm

idiot messiah? Why must you blasphemy the son of God? Praise Jesus. Amen.

jconservative

May 12th, 2011
12:49 pm

“…improve access by slowing health care cost increases…”

The smell of more “big government” is in the air.

Since his 2003 election as Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney has beem identified in the national press as “the Liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts”.

You are who you are.

Sick of it

May 12th, 2011
12:52 pm

So we can subsidies oil companies making tens of billions in profits, we can let the richest of the rich pay as little in taxes as they can, yet we cannot figure out how to help the middle class and the poor afford health care. Greatest nation on earth?

Linda

May 12th, 2011
1:01 pm

Sick@12:52, Who in this country does not have health care?

Lt Dan

May 12th, 2011
1:08 pm

The top 1% of the wage earners in this country pay 40% of the Federal tax revenues, further, the top 10% of the wage earners pay about 75% of the Federal tax, and finally, the top 50% of wage earners pay for close to 97.5% of the Federal taxes.

How much more should the “rich” pay?

How about we cut government spending to what is actually needed (I’m okay with the Departments of Defense, Justice, and the Interior) and scrap the rest?

And finally, to really p.o. some people: there is no right to health care. Health care is a product, and our system of law gives no party a right to another person’s property without their consent (ie, an exchange of consideration between parties).

I agree with Clark Howard: government should stay out of health care and the free market given the opportunity to work.

Linda

May 12th, 2011
1:11 pm

If health care insurance worked the same way as auto insurance & hazard insurance, all problems would be solved.

CobbGOPer

May 12th, 2011
1:16 pm

I don’t vote for Mormons. It’s bad enough when all I have to vote for are half (or full)-fundie conservatives.

CobbGOPer

May 12th, 2011
1:17 pm

And can we please get a more effective “Draft Mitch Daniels” campaign going? He needs to [expletive deleted] or get off the pot.

/I’d vote for him

John

May 12th, 2011
1:23 pm

Linda@12:01, did you read the article you posted in it’s entirety? Especially what Alice Coombs, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society and an emergency room physician had to say.

“Coombs said that despite its problems, Massachusetts has done “an incredible job” with healthcare. Issues such as a shortage of doctors in poorer communities are not unique to the state, she noted.”

While you tried to make the argument with bullet points saying “The changes to health care in Massachusetts since state-wide health care was passed include:” if you read the article, you will find this is happening all across mcuh country, not as a result of RomneyCare. As the article states…

‘”It’s a success in terms of the number of patients who have seen a doctor in the past few years, but the physician workforce has been strained,” Coombs said.

Massachusetts, like much of the nation, has a severe shortage of doctors in primary care — internists and family physicians — because those fields are less lucrative.

“We need more doctors in primary care. There’s no getting around that fact,” said Coombs.’

dred

May 12th, 2011
1:24 pm

If all true-believin’, gawd fearing christians would put their healthcare in the good hands of the lord and stop sucking on the govt. teet there wouldn’t be a need for medicare/medicaid.

John

May 12th, 2011
1:36 pm

Lt Dan,

“The top 1% of the wage earners in this country pay 40% of the Federal tax revenues, further, the top 10% of the wage earners pay about 75% of the Federal tax, and finally, the top 50% of wage earners pay for close to 97.5% of the Federal taxes.

How much more should the “rich” pay?”

In 2007 (which we know the divide between the wealthy and poor has increased since then) the top 1% owned 42.7% of all the wealth in this country, the next 19% owned 50.3% putting the top 20% owning 93% of all the wealth in this country. The bottom 80% owned only 7% of the wealth.

Do you think it’s fair that the top 20% who own 93% of all the wealth only pay 75% of the taxes leaving the bottom 80% who owns only 7% of the wealth to pay 25% of all taxes?

Linda

May 12th, 2011
1:38 pm

John@1:23, I cited a site & gave a summary. If you disagree with any points in the article, I suggest you contact Reuters, the author of the article or any of the experts quoted. I would not have been able to make the last point had I not read the entire article. I encourage anyone to read the article or any of the other ones that cover the most recent annual Physician Workforce survey of MMS members.

yuzeyurbrane

May 12th, 2011
1:50 pm

I agree with Kyle that this is an albatross on his back as far as getting Republication nomination. His 50 state waiver proposal is unworkable if the goal is providing quality affordable healthcare for all Americans and is contradictory to his portability proposal. The biggest trick of all, if he still gets the nomination, would be to switch gears and point to his Mass. plan as a substantial success which, despite a few flaws that are being corrected, it has been.

FairTax is a Scam

May 12th, 2011
1:53 pm

The idle rich don’t need Medicare or health care reform, they are already rich. The system is not broken; a few simple changes would end all the funding problems.

Means testing would stop millionaires and billionaires from getting a check every month.

Lifting the cap so the rich could start paying their fair share would end funding problems.

From the IRS Annual Report last week:

1% of millionaires pay no federal income tax.

18,000 households making more than $500,000 – pay no federal income tax.

4,000 made more than $1 million but pay no federal income tax.

But some numbskulls want to add 20-30% sales tax to everything we buy???

amy

May 12th, 2011
1:54 pm

Yes Dred,
Because the lord can stop a heart attack. I hope you are making fun of the crazies.

Clinton "Skink" Tyree

May 12th, 2011
1:55 pm

Since laughter is the best medicine, the GOP healthcare proposal foresees every citizen receiving a George Carlin or Bill Cosby CD.

John

May 12th, 2011
1:56 pm

Linda@1:36, I didn’t disagree with the points in the article…so there is no need for me to contact Reuters, the author of any of the experts quoted. You would realize that if you read my comments. What I said is the article does not say all these things are a result of RomneyCare, which you did. As the article points out, shortage of primary care physicians are all across the nation. The article does not make the connection that you tried to make. It does say; however (which you conveniently left out), that RomneyCare is “a success in terms of the number of patients who have seen a doctor in the past few years”.

reebok

May 12th, 2011
2:15 pm

Romney needs to find an excuse to drop out. Getting crushed by Prez Obama next year will taint him badly for 2016. Step aside now, let Pawlenty or Newt take the 2012 butt-kicking, and Romney can cruise to the nomination in ‘16. And the Dems have no one on deck after Obama…Romney would likely roll to the Presidency.

ragnar danneskjold

May 12th, 2011
2:16 pm

Good afternoon all. The WSJ editorial is phrased entirely in the past tense. I perceive the conservative thinkers have now written-off Mr. Romney, due to RomneyCare. As the Journal suggested, a clean apology six months ago could have wiped the slate clean. The failure to acknowledge the core defect in RomneyCare suggests a limitation of his capacity, and worse his fidelity to all things-Romney. Such a harsh allegation suggests Romney is no different from Chauncey. Why would the voters vote for “same direction, less speed?”

John

May 12th, 2011
2:17 pm

Linda, case in point. Your claim…”The changes to health care in Massachusetts since state-wide health care was passed include: *the average wait time has increased to 7 weeks for non-emergency internal medical appts.” What has it increased from?

What the article says is “Long wait times are common — almost seven weeks, on average, for a non-emergency appointment for internal medicine. ” It doesn’t say anything about the average wait time increasing.

Actually, that’s a better wait time than what I have. I have insurance, have had the same primary care physician for several years and called 2 weeks ago to schedule a routine physical. Initially I was told it would probably be fall before I could be seen. After checking the schedule, she was able to make the appointment in July…a 12 week wait time. I think 7 week wait time it better than 12, don’t you?

Dr. Kildare

May 12th, 2011
2:26 pm

The shortage of Primary Care physicians is caused by the restrictions imposed on the doctors by Managed Care. This also includes slow reimbursement patterns. Add to that the fact that Primary Care physicians only average $150 – $200 K a year.

So, put the blame where it’s due.

Lt Dan

May 12th, 2011
2:42 pm

RE: Do you think it’s fair that the top 20% who own 93% of all the wealth only pay 75% of the taxes leaving the bottom 80% who owns only 7% of the wealth to pay 25% of all taxes?

Answer: Yes.

But then, what is “fair” and who decides that?

Linda

May 12th, 2011
2:43 pm

John@1:56, No, I did not even mention RomneyCare. I cited what the article covered.

The only personal opinion I made was in the first sentence, “Health insurance does not equal health care.” You agree that there is a shortage of primary care physicians across the country. Having health insurance does not guarantee that patients will be able to see a doctor when they are sick. They end up in the ER.

daisy fuentes

May 12th, 2011
2:50 pm

jesus is my co-pilot and my gate-keeper (primary care physician).

David Granger

May 12th, 2011
2:53 pm

The very BEST thing that Mitt Romney can say is to point out that…yes, under his governorship, Massachusetts TRIED a state version of Obamacare. It has been a failure, and the state is going broke.

John

May 12th, 2011
2:59 pm

Linda@2:43, “No, I did not even mention RomneyCare. ” What were you referring to when you stated “The changes to health care in Massachusetts since state-wide health care was passed include”? Massachusetts’ state-wide health care is RomneyCare.

John

May 12th, 2011
3:11 pm

Linda@2:43, The only personal opinion I made was in the first sentence, “Health insurance does not equal health care.”

I agree with that statement about “personal opinion” but you tried to make up facts when you stated (misstated from the article) ”The changes to health care in Massachusetts since state-wide health care was passed include: *the average wait time has increased to 7 weeks for non-emergency internal medical appts.”. If I’m incorrect, which paragraph in the article does it state wait times have increased to 7 weeks for non-emergency internal medical appts SINCE the state-wide health care law was passed?

Cobbian

May 12th, 2011
3:19 pm

Well. It is for sure that what the Republicans have proposed will do nothing to reduce health care costs. Their proposals are based on the assumption that it is too expensive so people just need to go ahead and die.

We have played around with health insurance as the health care gate keeper for 50 years. It doesn’t work – costs are not rationalized, costs don’t go down, access is limited. Health care costs are one of the factors that have driven jobs overseas. All we do in promoting health insurance is guarantee the choke hold insurance has on the entire system. There is no economic relationship between users and providers of health care. The economic relationship of each is with the health insurer. The health insurer’s primary concern is not with the costs, it is concerned with the margin, the difference between what it receives in premiums and what it pays out to health care providers. The efficiency of health care delivery or services is not their concern – all they need is the margin between how much comes in and how much goes out.

We consider the provision of clean drinking water a governmental issue. So is a good sewage system. So is clean air. I remember when Atlanta had a low cloud of smog that used to rest on the city before the EPA started cleaning up the air. I think health care is another basic service, like clean water and clean air.

Gordon

May 12th, 2011
3:23 pm

@John,

“RE: Do you think it’s fair that the top 20% who own 93% of all the wealth only pay 75% of the taxes leaving the bottom 80% who owns only 7% of the wealth to pay 25% of all taxes?”

Taxes are primarily on income, not wealth, so your argument has no meaning. You and those like you have become entirely too comfortable with asking the government to seize other people’s property simply because they have more than you. The richer you are, the more you should pay, and the higher percentage you should pay. That is exactly what happens.

John

May 12th, 2011
3:35 pm

@Gordon

“Taxes are primarily on income, not wealth, so your argument has no meaning.”

And what do they do with their wealth…they invest it and produce move income. I’m sure you mean payroll income though. So how do some, such as Richard Fairbank CEO of Capital One Financial get around it…by earning no salary. In 2009, Mr. Fairbank earned a total compensation of $6,076,805, which included no base salary, no cash bonus, $2,000,019 in stock awards, $4,000,001 in option awards, and $76,785 in other compensation.

Road Scholar

May 12th, 2011
3:45 pm

CobbGOPer:”I don’t vote for Mormons. ‘

Yeah, do you vote for morons!

Lil Barry:” If you believe Obozocare will work as promised, then you are a complete moron and a chump.”

Does your health insurance pay for all the preparation H you must use? If not, you must be a perfect a$$hole!

Jim

May 12th, 2011
3:46 pm

As a businessman with little interest in social issues or other nonsense like birth certificates, Mitt Romney or Mitch Daniels are the type of republican presidential candidates I would vote for.

I voted for President Obama against my better judgement because I really thought he could be a transformational leader this country so desperately needs. Instead, I got a traditional “tax and spend” democrat.

Oh well, shame on me. The republican base will never accept a presidential candidate such as Romney, Daniels or Gingrich (like the ideas, am certain he cares about as much about social issues as I do, don’t care about his infidelity but can’t stand his smug arrogance).

Probably a moot issue anyway as the President will probably easily beat any of the republicans who can win the nomination but will do so only by tilting so far to the right that it will scare away the swing votes in November.