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Editorial: Mr. Romney, Own It

By Chicago Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 06--Mitt Romney got all twisted into knots again this week on Obamacare. It was painful to watch.

In upholding President Barack Obama's national health care law, Chief Justice John Roberts said the penalties tied to the mandate that citizens have health insurance are constitutional under Congress' authority to tax.

Aha, said conservatives: Here's proof Obama has raised taxes. The Romney campaign said it's not really a tax, it's a ... penalty. Romney flipped on Wednesday and said the federal penalty for not having insurance is, in fact, a tax.

Why is Romney so tortured about the definition of Obama's law? Because Romney signed a health insurance mandate as governor of Massachusetts that looks to all the world (except Romney) as the template for Obamacare. Romney doesn't want to be accused of having raised taxes in Massachusetts.

So he said Obamacare has a tax, but Romneycare still doesn't because. ...

Let's stop there.

Mr. Romney, just own it. You signed a health care mandate. It looks very much like Obamacare on a state scale. The state and federal laws are built on the same principles. They share many benefits and requirements. Please stop trying to talk your way around that.

Look at just some of the similarities between Romneycare and Obamacare:

--Both require that citizens pay a fine (tax, whatever) if they don't obtain health insurance.

--Both expand subsidies for people who can't afford to buy insurance.

--Both prohibit insurers from denying coverage to people because of pre-existing medical conditions. Both set broad rules on what must be covered, and on premiums.

--Both require most companies to offer insurance to their employees or pay a penalty. Massachusetts exempts companies with fewer than 10 employees. The federal law sets the bar at 50 employees.

--Both require insurers to cover dependents up to a certain age.

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As governor, Romney had no problem taking credit. "Quite a day! ... You have made a huge difference, for me and for hundreds of thousands of people who will have healthier and happier lives," he wrote to a Massachusetts official after signing the landmark law on April 12, 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported.

This page credited Massachusetts for "a refreshing departure from the tiresome partisan gridlock that has plagued much of the health care debate ..."

While it would take away a campaign issue for Romney now, he would be a whole lot more trustworthy to the public if he would just ... own ... up ... to ... his ... law.

Then he could talk honesty about the big challenge in both of these laws: cost containment.

Romneycare counted on a big boost in federal Medicaid funds to pay for much of the expanded coverage. Even with that, Massachusetts has struggled mightily to afford its law; it ranks near the top of the nation in per capita health care spending. Bay State lawmakers are now considering empowering regulators to cap health costs and force providers who exceed those caps to renegotiate contracts. We can count the ways that won't work.

Romney took a political risk to reach a deal with Democrats in Massachusetts to extend health care to thousands of uninsured people. He can't dance around that. He would sound a lot more believable if he spoke about the future of health care from experience. Instead, he's all about political advantage, and that has him twisting.

___

(c)2012 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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