Why Mitt Can't Escape RomneyCare

Romney gave the health care speech he had to give, but the issue is likely to come back and bite him in 2012.

Romney in Michigan (Getty Images)

If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hadn't switched previous positions so dramatically on issues like abortion and same-sex unions, he'd probably have an easier time convincing voters that his newfound religion on health care reform is sincere. But as the Boston Herald's Michael Graham points out, Romney's got "more flip-flops on his record than a beachfront sandal shop."

With "RomneyCare" hanging in the atmosphere as his biggest liability in the 2012 Republican presidential race, he clearly had to do something. So, undaunted, and returning Thursday to the state where his father was a three-term governor, that's what Romney attempted to do.

In a speech at the University of Michigan, he tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and "ObamaCare" -- President Barack Obama's individual health care mandate and universal coverage scheme -- and RomneyCare, the individual mandate and universal coverage scheme he signed into law in 2006 and upon which the basic framework of ObamaCare was based.

Coming across less like a visionary and more like, well, a health insurance salesman, the jacket-and-tie-less Romney stood at a classroom lectern and gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining a revised approach that was fairly light on specifics, for which he promised, "They'll be coming."

But like the title of his book, No Apology, he didn't say sorry; instead he called his push for RomneyCare "what I thought was right for the people of my state," then dismissed Obama's plan as "a power grab by the federal government." Only time will tell how his speech went over, but as debate and primary season nears, it looks like Romney might still be in for an uphill climb.

Do No Harm


Romney underscored individual choice as a key feature of his plan, claiming, "Mine includes no mandates." But he didn't manage to fully account for his past support of the individual mandate -- the requirement that healthy people buy insurance to average out the expense of care for those with illnesses -- which became the libertarian bête noire in 2009's ObamaCare debate.

The Wall Street Journal savaged Romney on this point, arguing Thursday in an op-ed that his past support for the individual mandate was "a blunder" in "philosophy of government" -- not mentioning that it was on the Journal's op-ed page in 2006 that Romney wrote (in an article now gone from its website): "Someone has to pay for health care that must, by law, be provided ... we insist that everyone purchase health insurance from one of our private insurance companies."