The problem with Romney’s account is that at the time he signed the bill, he was saying it would bring down health care costs. Specifically, in a triumphant April 2006 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Health Care for Everyone? We Found a Way,” Romney boasted: “Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced.” (Emphasis mine.)
Romney, for the most part, was able to avoid criticism for his Massachusetts health care plan in the 2008 Republican primaries. At the time, it was still too soon to evaluate the program with hard data and Republican primary voters weren’t really paying attention to the issue of health care. But now both things have changed — the legislation has proved disastrous for state finances, the cost of premiums, and doctors’ wait times. In addition, Republican voters have become more aware of health care policy issues. And Romney’s plan is basically the Baucus bill at the state level: a government mandate forcing individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a tax, and government subsidies to help individuals purchase government-designed insurance policies on a government-run exchange.
I’m not sure which is worse: Trying to control costs, failing, and then denying that you tried or not even trying in the first place. I assume he’s going to end up settling on some sort of “the communist Massachusetts legislature made me do it” line on RomneyCare ahead of the primaries, but if so, then he ought to settle on it soon and start hammering it. No more misstatements or weasel words; all that does is play into the perception that he talks out of both sides of his mouth. Just tout the plan as noble in its ambitions but ultimately doomed because he had to work within liberal parameters, which always produce wasteful boondoggles. In fact, he could weave that into a sweet stump speech for Republican candidates next year: Unless we have a Republican Congress, a Republican president in 2012 won’t be able to accomplish much. But even so, this is a major obstacle for him. Needless to say.