Rom­ney’s in­di­vid­ual man­date prob­lem

GOP can­di­date’s health care plan was model for Oba­macare

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Mike Dewine

On my first day in of­fice as Ohio at­tor­ney gen­eral, I au­tho­rized Ohio to join the mul­ti­state law­suit chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of Oba­macare. More than half of all the states are part of this law­suit. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court be­gan hear­ing the oral ar­gu­ments in this very im­por­tant case, and it ul­ti­mately will de­cide whether to pro­tect our ex­ist­ing sys­tem of limited gov­ern­ment or give Congress vast new reg­u­la­tory pow­ers.

The key is­sue in the law­suit is the in­di­vid­ual man­date — the pro­vi­sion of Oba­macare that re­quires all in­di­vid­u­als to pur­chase fed­er­ally ap­proved health in­sur­ance and the pro­vi­sion that Amer­i­cans over­whelm­ingly op­pose. While most Amer­i­cans un­der­stand that the in­di­vid­ual man­date tram­ples our lib­erty by giv­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment the un­prece­dented au­thor­ity to dic­tate our per­sonal choices, what many Amer­i­cans may not know is that Mitt Rom­ney de­signed his own in­di­vid­ual man­date in Mas­sachusetts and en­cour­aged Pres­i­dent Obama to adopt a sim­i­lar fed­eral edict.

As gov­er­nor of Mas­sachusetts, Mr. Rom­ney cham­pi­oned a state-run health care sys­tem that func­tions largely the same way as Oba­macare. Both health care over­haul laws ex­pand Med­i­caid rolls. Both health care laws tam­per with the free mar­ket, caus­ing higher health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums and doc­tor short­ages. Most sig­nif­i­cantly, both laws in­clude in­di­vid­ual man­dates.

In 2009, as the Democrats in Washington were pre­par­ing to push Oba­macare through Congress, Mr. Rom­ney wrote an op-ed for USA To­day in which he boasted about his health care ac­com­plish­ments. He en­cour­aged Mr. Obama to fol­low his ex­am­ple in Mas­sachusetts. In the col­umn, Mr. Rom­ney ex­plained that puni­tive taxes are a good way to “en­cour­age” peo­ple to pur­chase health in­sur­ance. At that time, he was proud of Rom­n­ey­care, and he thought his health care law should serve as a tem­plate for Mr. Obama’s fed­eral health care ini­tia­tive.

Even be­yond pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions, Rom­n­ey­care was a hor­ri­ble model to sug­gest for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment be­cause the Con­sti­tu­tion does not give Congress the power to im­pose an in­di­vid­ual in­sur­ance man­date. Our fed­eral gov­ern­ment is one of im­por­tant, but limited and de­fined, pow­ers, and the man­date vi­o­lates those con­sti­tu­tional con­straints on fed­eral au­thor­ity — as I hope the Supreme Court soon will rule.

Rom­n­ey­care is Mr. Rom­ney’s big­gest vul­ner­a­bil­ity in this cam­paign. On the stump, he has promised to repeal Oba­macare and has tried to draw dis­tinc­tions be­tween his health care law and the pres­i­dent’s law. But the more Re­pub­li­can vot­ers learn about Rom­n­ey­care’s iden­ti­cal in­di­vid­ual man­date, the more the more skep­ti­cal they will be about Mr. Rom­ney’s cur­rent prom­ises to repeal Oba­macare. Oba­macare, af­ter all, was mod­eled on Rom­n­ey­care, and Mr. Rom­ney ac­tively en­cour­aged Democrats to adopt key pro­vi­sions.

As much as Mr. Rom­ney would pre­fer to con­ceal the truth about Rom­n­ey­care, the re­al­ity is that his pro­gram has an ap­palling record in Mas­sachusetts. Rom­n­ey­care has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased the cost of health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums in the state. In fact, health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums are ris­ing more sharply there than any­where else in the coun­try. Per capita health care spend­ing in Mas­sachusetts is 27 per­cent higher than the na­tional av­er­age and the high­est in the na­tion. At the same time that fam­i­lies’ health care costs are soar­ing, Mas­sachusetts has been ex­pand­ing its Med­i­caid rolls, cre­at­ing ad­di­tional prob­lems for tax­pay­ers.

Oba­macare is, quite sim­ply, the fed­eral ver­sion of Rom­n­ey­care. All of the prob­lems that we have seen un­fold in Mas­sachusetts — doc­tor short­ages, Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion and es­ca­lat­ing health in­sur­ance costs — are al­ready start­ing to take place across the coun­try as Oba­macare is im­ple­mented.

In 2010, im­me­di­ately af­ter Democrats passed their health care over­haul law, Amer­i­cans leapt into ac­tion, form­ing groups and or­ga­ni­za­tions com­mit­ted to re­peal­ing Oba­macare on the grounds that it is an un­prece­dented abuse of gov­ern­ment power.

The in­di­vid­ual man­date, in par­tic­u­lar, has caused a great deal of frus­tra­tion be­cause there is sim­ply no con­sti­tu­tional ba­sis for re­quir­ing Amer­i­cans to pur­chase health in­sur­ance. Yet, de­spite con­ser­va­tives’ strong op­po­si­tion to the in­di­vid­ual man­date, one of the can­di­dates for the GOP nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent is the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tect of the in­di­vid­ual man­date and many other as­pects of Oba­macare.

Beat­ing Mr. Obama will be tough enough. Hav­ing a can­di­date with­out the abil­ity to use the is­sue of Oba­macare against him makes it even tougher. I re­cently an­nounced my sup­port for Rick San­to­rum as the GOP nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent be­cause I be­lieve re­peal­ing Oba­macare should be our top pri­or­ity next year. Un­like Mr. Rom­ney, Mr. San­to­rum has cham­pi­oned con­ser­va­tive so­lu­tions to health care. I’m con­fi­dent that Mr. San­to­rum, once elected, would move swiftly to repeal Oba­macare.


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