Let's talk about health care. Despite what Romney's detractors and rivals would have you think, Romney's health care policies remain the same today as they always have. Romney's health care plan for America can be stated simply and succinctly: Romney wants each state to have the same freedom that he had in Massachusetts to innovate and design their own unique health care policies.
Byron York, chief political correspondent of the Washington Examiner, summarized it best when he said this:
On many, many occasions, Romney said he believes Romneycare is a model for some states to follow but would not be a model for all states and certainly not for a federal plan.
"I think it's a great plan, but I'm a federalist," Romney said on "Meet the Press" in December 2007. "I don't believe in applying what works in one state to all states if different states have different circumstances."
In that 2007 interview, Romney pointed out that a relatively small number, 7 percent, of the Massachusetts population was uninsured. "Texas has 25 percent," he said. "Given the kind of differences between states, I'm not somebody who is going to say, 'What I did in Massachusetts I'm going to now tell every state they have to do it the same way.'"
But as much as he stressed federalism, Romney also stressed that he would be happy to see many states adopt his plan. "I think it's a good model for other states," he continued. "Maybe not every state but most." At the federal level, Romney said he would "give every state the same kind of flexibility we got from the federal government." That's the Romney position, then and now.
Romney wants the same kind of flexibility for other states that "he had" because Romney received special approval from the federal government (the Bush Administration at the time), to bring about the Massachusetts health care reform plan now known as "RomneyCare." The federal government allowed for Massachusetts to spend federal dollars in a totally different way than any other state was allowed to do at the time. Romney got approval to use Medicaid money to not just pay for health care services, but to help the poor buy a health insurance policy from a private insurance company. In order to give each state the same flexibility and freedom that he had, Romney wants to "block grant" all Medicaid funding to the states so that states don't have the excessive rules and regulations that typically come with accepting money from the federal government.
Since the passage of RomneyCare in 2006, Romney has been consistent regarding his plan for other states: States are free to adopt some, all, or none of the MA health care plan.
Here is an interview with Gov. Romney on NPR on April 8, 2006 where he said this:
Q: Stepping back, what impact do you think this will have outside Massachusetts?
A: Around the country, people are watching because they know this is big. Some on the far left don’t like it because it’s not a single-payer universal coverage program. Some on the far right don’t like it because they don’t like government telling people that they need to get insurance. But the great majority of people, both on the left and the right, believe that this is a step forward.
Q: Can this model be used in other states?
A: My guess is a lot of states will choose to adopt one or another of the measures we’ve put in place here. But most will give it a little time and watch to see what our experience is. That’s the great thing about having 50 states and the principle of federalism. Let us experiment ourselves. Let us learn from one another.
Romney believes that states should have the power to experiment and innovate by giving them Medicaid funds without all the regulations. Additionally, states can be encouraged to innovate by offering "innovation grants" to states that come up with the most promising plans on how to lower costs or increase access to health care in their particular state. These innovation grants would help pay for the cost of implementing the new policy.
Here is what Romney says in his book, No Apology:
"My own preference is to let each state fashion its own program to meet the distinct needs of its citizens. States could follow the Massachusetts model if they choose, or they could develop plans of their own. These plans, tested in the state ‘laboratories of democracy,’ could be evaluated, compared, improved upon, and adopted by others."
In summary, Romney's health care policies remain the same today as they have from the beginnning. Romney's health care plan for America is simply to give each state the same freedom that he had in Massachusetts to innovate and design their own unique health care policies by block granting Medicaid funds and providing "innovation grants." From the outset Romney has said that states are free to adopt some, all, or none of the Massachusetts health care law and that the MA health care model would not work in all states. Romney has always emphasized state-level initiatives to improve health care and certainly never advocated a federal plan.
In regard to the press, it's disappointing that the press continues to mindlessly repeat exaggerations and supposed flip-flop stories without doing the research to confirm whether the stories are true, or if a political opponent is behind the exaggerations. As Romney supporters, we can make a difference. If you read an article that falsely claims Romney has flip-flopped or distorted Romney's views, send them an email. Having sent many such emails myself, I can tell you that these emails are often read and considered. For example, there used to be a lot of stories in the press stating how RomneyCare was bankrupting the state of Massachusetts. We don't hear that story being told much anymore because most news organizations now see that it is false. Sending a short email where you back up your claim with links can make a big difference.
To find out more about RomneyCare, including a discussion about individual mandates, be sure to peruse our new "RomneyCare FAQ" page here.