The truth will set you free - and if your name is Jon Gruber and you’re an MIT economist who advised both then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Obama on their health care reform laws, it may well get you strapped to the roof of Romney’s car for a long drive up North. “It’s the same fucking bill,” Gruber declared…and I hope he has a warm coat.
Since health care reform was signed into law two years ago by President Obama, the Republican party has perpetuated the notion that “Obamacare,” as it’s derided, and its individual mandate, are an un-Constitutional threat to American freedom.
Mitt Romney, the inevitable GOP nominee, has called the Affordable Care Act “flawed” - going as far as to declare “on day one of my administration, I will grant a waiver from ‘Obamacare’ to all 50 states.”
Six years ago today, Romney signed Massachusetts’ health care reform - individual mandate and all - into law. Romney has been consistent in his defense of “Romneycare,” contending on “Meet the Press” in 2007 that the law would be a blueprint for other states, predicting that “we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.”
I was reminded that Tim Pawlenty is alive yesterday, when he spoke out to say that it was “premature” to exclude Rick Santorum as a possible VP pick for Romney. Being reminded of Pawlenty’s alive-ness made me recall his greatest contribution to our political debate: the genius phrase “Obamneycare.”
“Obamneycare,” first uttered by Pawlenty while he was campaigning against Romney in June of last year - he’s since dropped out of the race and endorsed ol’ Willard - was then revived by Santorum in February. Romney, according to Santorum, was the “proud defender and author of ‘Obamneycare.”
Indeed, by all accounts - except Mr. Romney’s - “Obamneycare” is a fairly accurate description for the Affordable care Act. White House Records show that in 2009, senior officials in the Obama Administration held a dozen meetings with three health care advisors who helped then-Governor Romney shape Massachusetts’ health care reform in 2006.
One of those advisers, Gruber - who without freedom of speech might be in the swamp - himself attended five meetings with Obama Administration officials at the White House in 2009, including a meeting with the president, further baited Romney when he revealed “the White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts. They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model.”
It seems the White House reached their goal, because to see the differences between “Obamacare” and “Romneycare,” you need to squint your eyes and turn your head sideways.
BOTH PLANS: create healthcare exchanges, wherein private insurance companies compete; contain an individual mandate; mandate that employers provide insurance; let children stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26; provide subsidies for citizens who can’t afford to purchase insurance; require insurers to cover so-called “pre-existing conditions.”
The nuanced distinctions between the plans are technical. “Romneycare” charges people who don’t buy insurance $1,200, while “Obamacare” charges them $695. Romney subsidizes anyone earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level, Obama subsidizes anyone earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level. The Massachusetts law mandates that companies with 11 or more employees provide health insurance, while the Affordable Care Act mandates that companies with 50 or more employees offer insurance. Under “Romneycare,” an insurer can limit coverage of specific “pre-existing conditions” to six months, under “Obamacare” there is no such limit.
Romney contends that he took a federalist approach to healthcare, and that difference is what makes his individual mandate good and President Obama’s individual mandate a socialist threat to the very American air that we breathe.
Yet, as recently as 2009, Romney was calling for Washington to look at Massachusetts as a model for healthcare. If slightly reforming the Massachusetts plan so that it could extend to the entire country was notwhat Romney meant when he said “the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington,” what did he mean?
Seeing as “Romneycare” has been a roaring success in Massachusetts, it’s not difficult to understand why Mitt’s reluctant to denounce it. In the six short years since the bill was signed into law, the number of uninsured citizens in the state has almost disappeared. 99% of Massachusetts residents now have health insurance, and only 8% of low income adults don’t receive coverage. The plan has been called “one of the biggest policy achievements” in the last 25 years in the state.
Unfortunately for But-I’m-a-Real-Boy Romney, the fact remains that standing by the Massachusetts plan is standing by its copycat bill, the Affordable Care Act…and Republicans are paid good money to hate the ACA.
Karl Rove has claimed that Americans are finding out “to our horror” how “harmful this measure is,” continuing, “‘Obamacare’ will sink America in a sea of red ink.” Donald Trump, who endorsed Mitt Romney in Las Vegas earlier this year, has labeled “Obamacare” a disaster.” South Carolina Governor - and Romney supporter - Nikki Haley, has indicated that her state will opt-out of the Affordable Care Act, in addition to encouraging her fellow-governors to form a coalition to “fight ‘Obamacare.’” Ann Coulter has called certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act steps “toward Communism.”
Through gritted teeth, the Right Wing is going to have to play nice with Mitt through November, and luckily for him he’s never been accused of being a man of principle. Perhaps establishment Republicans should be saying “the fault, dear Romney, is not in our czars, but in ourselves.”