A number of determined anti-Mitt Romney types feign confusion about why he opposes Obamacare and how he will distinguish his own Romneycare plan from the president’s in the general election, should he be the GOP nominee. But in his major health care speech in Michigan last year and in speeches, interview and debates since then, Romney actually has laid out a number of his complaints against Obamacare.
But before we get to those, we should recognize that, while Romneycare’s mandate is a liability for the former Massachusetts governor in the Republican primary, there is no guarantee it’ll even come up in the general election.
For starters, Romney may not have to attack the individual mandate at all, since the Supreme Court may very well strike it down. More importantly, in the general election Romney doesn’t need to challenge President Obama on his individual mandate. It’s not like Obama is going to say, “Your individual mandate is as unpopular as mine.” Instead Romney will focus on the problems with Obamacare and how it differs from his own state plan.
Romney has raised several substantial objections to Obamacare. In Michigan last May (page 11 of his presentation) and since then, he has vigorously argued against the tax burden that would be imposed on businesses and individuals to pay for a plan most Americans don’t want. In op-eds and debates, he has made clear he wants to get rid of the Obamacare taxes and instead work on equalizing the tax treatment of employer-provided and individually purchased health care insurance.
Romney has also argued that Obamacare adds to the deficit and doesn’t “bend the cost curve.” Unlike the worshipers at the altar of the CBO, he has argued that it will increase health care costs. His other arguments against Obamacare include the anti-jobs impact on business, the excessive federal bureaucracy and regulations needed to run the scheme and the cuts on Medicare. As to the latter, he has accused Obama of cutting $500 billion from Medicare. He, by contrast, has offered his endorsement of the market-based Medicare reform plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
In addition, rather than vastly expanding Medicaid coverage, as Obama has done, Romney proposed block-granting Medicaid and letting the states run it.
Finally, he has rapped Obamacare for its negative impact on innovation and quality of care. In a November speech before the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, he outlined for his conservative audience his objections to Obamacare:
The statute “is bad law, it’s bad policy,” he said. “And when I’m president, that bad news will be over.”
The Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board is one example of bad policy in the national law, he said. The IPAB has the task of recommending spending cuts when Medicare costs exceed projected targets, possibly leading to pay reductions for doctors and others. It could act as early as 2014, with its first cuts taking effect the following year.
Romney described the IPAB as a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats. “Those bureaucrats, by the way, they have the power to change Medicare, to put in place further cuts to it without congressional approval, even if those cuts overturn a law previously passed by Congress.”
Could and will Romney expand on each of these points if he becomes the nominee? Certainly. (Understandably it’s not a topic he wants to emphasize in the primary.) But the notion that he hasn’t already outlined differences with Obama on health care or that he will lack arguments against it is a product of wishful thinking of Romney-haters.
There are other grounds for questioning Romney’s electability. And conservatives may doubt how committed he is to repealing Obamacare (although this seems to be one campaign promise into which he is so locked that it would be very hard to break). But lack of arguments against Obamacare isn’t one of his major problems.