Interesting timing on this news release given that tonight is the next Republican debate. However, I’m sure there’s plenty more where this came from, and hopefully enough of it will leak out soon enough to prevent Republicans from making the monumental mistake of nominating Mitt Romney as their standard bearer in 2012, thereby guaranteeing four more years of Obama. Take it away Michael Isikoff:
Newly obtained White House records provide fresh details on how senior Obama administration officials used Mitt Romney’s landmark health-care law in Massachusetts as a model for the new federal law, including recruiting some of Romney’s own health care advisers and experts to help craft the act now derided by Republicans as “Obamacare.”
The records, gleaned from White House visitor logs reviewed by NBC News, show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006, when the Republican presidential candidate was governor of Massachusetts. One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.
“The White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts,” said Jon Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney administration on health care and who attended five meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. “They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model.”
The health-care reform law in Massachusetts was seen as a national breakthrough when Romney signed it an elaborate ceremony — complete with a fife and drum band — at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall on April 12, 2006. It was attended by an array of prominent political figures in the state, including the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a longtime champion of health-care reform.
Kennedy warmly praised Romney at the event, saying, “You’ve led the way over the long and winding path to this moment.”
Romney himself touted the historic significance of the act. “Massachusetts once again is taking a giant leap forward,” he said at the signing ceremony.
The key features of the new law were an individual mandate, which required state residents to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty — and the creation of a state agency to help the uninsured to purchase private health insurance plans at reasonable costs. It was touted by Romney at the event as a way of “expanding coverage to all our citizens.”
Clearly Romney and Obama shared several advisors and healthcare experts when crafting Romneycare and Obamacare, respectively. It appears the most important was MIT’s Jon Gruber, whom Romney, naturally, now tries to portray as a minor player in the development of Romneycare as he attempts reinvents himself (again) as a “conservative”. But as usual, the evidence doesn’t comport with Romney’s claims:
Romney aides have recently tried to suggest that Gruber was not a true adviser to Romney and did not play a big role in shaping the law. But Gruber was personally recognized by Romney for his role when he signed the health-care bill into law and was later appointed by Romney as a board member to the Connector Authority. (He also was given a photograph of the signing ceremony personally signed by Romney that read: “Jonathan, with deep appreciation and congratulations. A Triumph! Mitt Romney.”)
Gruber now says he is “proud” of Romney for “sticking up for what he did in Massachusetts” but is “disappointed” about his current efforts to make distinctions between the state law and the Affordable Care Act.
(He also noted that the Massachusetts law didn’t require any increase in taxes only because it received federal health-care funds that defrayed the costs of the new law.)
Romney is “the father of health-care reform,” said Gruber. “I think he is the single person most responsible for health care reform in the United States. … I’m not trying to make a political position or a political statement, I honestly feel that way. If Mitt Romney had not stood up for this reform in Massachusetts … I don’t think it would have happened nationally. So I think he really is the guy with whom it all starts.”
I can’t argue with that, although I’m sure Team Mitt will continue mumbling about how a healthcare mandate imposed on citizens by a president is disastrous governmental overreach while a healthcare mandate imposed on citizens by a governor is conservative or something. Remind me again: Why are we supposed to believe Romney when he says repealing Obamacare will be his number one priority? I’m skeptical, to put it mildly.
It’s interesting that Romneycare required federal funds, meaning that tax payers in other states (like myself) were helping to pay for it. Nice. I’m somewhat surprised this aspect of Romneycare has not received more coverage. As I noted earlier, that Isikoff brought this information to light today is also interesting. Ed Morrissey believes Isikoff may have had a little help, and that the timing is more than just a coincidence:
However, while this is clearly bad news for Romney on the morning of a national debate, it’s worth asking about how NBC happened to stumble onto this now. They may have diligently perused visitor logs and struck gold, or perhaps someone in the White House helped them along in an attempt to weaken Romney. We’ll never know which it was, but I suspect it wasn’t just dumb luck.
Morrissey may or may not be correct, but whether or not Isikoff received White House help is, I think, immaterial. This kind of stuff will continue to surface because Romney’s history of…shall we say…ideological opportunism guarantees that there’s plenty more where this came from, and Team Obama will release it in a steady drip, drip, drip manner as needed. Let’s hope the other Republican candidates in tonight’s debate turn over a new leaf and finally go after Romney for his liberal views, flip-flopping and dissembling. Better late than never, right? Not that I’m holding my breath…