Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wants to be president. And a plurality of Republican voters want him to be president. Recent polls show Republican nominee Romney beating President Barack Obama. Three big issues, however, threaten to implode the GOP front-runner’s nomination, let alone general election victory: RomneyCare, RomneyCare and RomneyCare.
Few things unite the tea party, the GOP caucus/primary activists and the knock-on-doors, hang-the-signs, ring-the-phone volunteers more than their universal hatred of ObamaCare. Most Americans want ObamaCare repealed, some because it lacks a “public option.” But the tea party-like Republicans — and even regular Republicans — overwhelmingly support ObamaCare repeal. It is up there with the worst legislation ever signed.
Eighty-five percent of Americans already have health insurance, and 89 percent of Americans call their own health care quality at least “satisfactory.” But this wasn’t good enough. So ObamaCare places the entire system under the command and control of the federal government. ObamaCare forces people to buy from a nominally private vendor, who by government fiat must accept people with pre-existing illnesses. It rejects federalism, the quaint notion that a limited number of duties and responsibilities belong to the federal government — the rest belong to the people and to the states.
Obama brags that he based ObamaCare on RomneyCare. This does two things. First, assuming Romney wins the nomination, it deflates ObamaCare –including its Massachusetts-like mandate — as a campaign issue. Second, it forces Romney to either a) admit that RomneyCare “works,” which would allow Obama to question why such a wonderful idea cannot serve as a role model for the other 49, or b) pronounce his signature issue as governor a failure, with Obama, of course, promising to do better with ObamaCare than the lousy job Romney did implementing the conceptually sound RomneyCare.
So how does Romney deal with this?
Romney had a chance to make lemonade. He gave an important and closely watched speech on RomneyCare early in the campaign. Would he admit RomneyCare’s dramatic cost overruns and concede that it failed to meet his goals of emergency room use reduction, health care cost containment and universal coverage? Would he admit that a growing number of Massachusetts’ doctors complain about inadequate reimbursement and that most primary-care physicians refuse to accept new patients? Would he acknowledge that, but for hundreds of millions in federal Medicaid money, RomneyCare’s out-of-control rising costs would likely bankrupt his state?
No. He defended RomneyCare. Vigorously.
Romney called it “a state solution to a state problem” yet promised to work to repeal ObamaCare — not because it is necessarily unworkable or contains an offensive mandate under threat of “fines.” No, Romney opposes ObamaCare as “a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one-size-fits-all plan across the nation.” More incredibly, Romney says “[RomneyCare] was right for the people of my state”!?
He blew it. Here’s what Romney should have said:
“Let me say this about what folks call RomneyCare, the so-called model for ObamaCare. Not only is ObamaCare an assault on the Constitution, an assault on the notion of federalism, an arrogant assumption that one size fits all, it also completely ignores the sad reality of health care in my home state. I take full responsibility for that mistake — and it was a mistake. To the people of Massachusetts, I say this: Even with the best of intentions and the generosity of the Massachusetts people, we simply have not met our goals.
“I promised that all those without health insurance would receive it. In fact, 100,000 still do not have health insurance. I promised that ER lines would become almost nonexistent. In fact, the lines are longer. I promised that premiums would go down. In fact, costs for employer-sponsored plans are rising faster than in any other state. Health care costs are spiraling upward, and people are waiting longer for treatment. Without cash infusion by the federal government — which means taxpayers in the other 49 states pay for health care in my home state — ‘RomneyCare’ would practically bankrupt Massachusetts.
“I was wrong. I’ve learned my lesson. I can speak to the dangers of ObamaCare unlike any other person in this race. I lived it, and I intend to do everything in my power to ensure it is never inflicted on any other state.
“The private sector is and remains the best way to assure the cheapest and most widely accessible goods and services. Some will fall through the cracks. That is the job of American compassion — people helping people. Americans are the most generous people on the face of the Earth, with the will and the capacity to help those who cannot help themselves. Vote for me. Help me explain the perils of government command and control of health care, and help me protect the American people from ObamaCare. I know the problems. And I know what to do about them. This is a win-win for America.”
There’s still time, Governor. Next time you give a speech on RomneyCare, call me first. Rates are negotiable. I already have health insurance.