Mitt Romney used to boast that his Massachusetts health care law should serve as a model for national health reform. After President Obama took that advice, and opposing the Affordable Care Act became an essential criterion for membership in the Republican Party, Romney executed a hairpin turn and began describing his reforms as uniquely suited to Massachusetts — not the whole country — if even that.
At the first presidential debate Wednesday night, he came full circle.
“What we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation, state by state,” he said.
Romney’s belief that states should adopt their own versions of Romneycare contradicts the view he held last December while fighting for the Republican presidential nomination.
Asked by The Washington Examiner if he would recommend that “any states” adopt his 2006 law, Romney responded, “In its entirety, no.”
“Because it’s not even perfect for Massachusetts,” he told reporter Byron York at the time. “At the time we created it, I vetoed several measures and said these, I think, are mistakes, and you in Massachusetts will find you have to correct them over time. But that’s the nature of a piece of legislation of this nature. You’ll see what works, what doesn’t, and you’ll make the changes. But they have not made those changes, and in some cases they made things worse. So I wouldn’t encourage any state to adopt it in toto.”
At the debate, he both reiterated his pledge to repeal Obamacare and talked up his own nearly identical state law, while falsely claiming that his national plan would protect people with pre-existing conditions.
Romney has a complicated and evolving relationship with his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts. He scarcely mentions it when he needs to appeal to conservatives and touts it loudly when appealing to voters outside his base.
Romney’s latest remarks, one month before the election, bring him back to the stance he held before Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done,” he said in February 2007. “If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.