It was a key feature of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid, his first order of business if voters put him in office: “I will act to repeal Obamacare.”
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 28, 2012
Then, on Friday, in a Boston Globe obituary for Staples' co-founder Thomas Stemberg, Romney said Obamacare wouldn't exist, and millions of people wouldn't have gained insurance, if it weren't for the health reform he implemented as governor of Massachusetts.
Stemberg, he told the Globe, encouraged him to implement health reform when he served as governor, telling Romney that giving people access to health care would be a way of doing good. It was an idea, the Globe reported, "which Romney said he hadn’t really considered before."
“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So without Tom, a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”
That seems like a contradictory position from a former presidential candidate who wrote a fundraising pitch in 2010 that started, "President Obama's healthcare bill is unhealthy for America."
On Friday, Romney promptly tweeted a clarification of his position on Obamacare.
Getting people health insurance is a good thing, and that’s what Tom Stemberg fought for. I oppose Obamacare https://t.co/Jv02IWhClh
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) October 23, 2015
"I oppose Obamacare and believe it has failed," Romney's full statement on Facebook says. "It drove up premiums, took insurance away from people who were promised otherwise, and usurped state programs. As I said in the campaign, I'd repeal it and replace it with state-crafted plans."
But is the claim that Obamacare has caused premiums to rise true? The Kaiser Family Foundation's report on employer-sponsored health plans has found that the growth in premiums has been slower between 2009 and 2014 than over the previous five years.
Romney's comments, appearing in a tribute to the Staples co-founder, began to draw widespread attention on Friday. Romney is explicitly connecting two dots that have been the subject of fierce debate over the years.
When Gov. Rick Perry said that Romneycare was the inspiration for Obamacare in 2010, for example, Gov. Chris Christie attacked him for it.
"Any attempt to compare what happened in Massachusetts to the healthcare reform passed by the President is completely intellectually dishonest," Christie said, according to Business Insider. "I am proud of him for standing up and doing what he thought was right...I am not going to LET them compare that happened in Massachusetts with the law passed by the federal government."
Now it's Romney himself who is doing the comparing. And although he says he doesn't like Obamacare, it's a strange thing to trace the law's lineage when paying tribute to a deceased friend's legacy and impact. Saying that his friend helped set in motion a law that he opposes and thinks has hurt America seems an odd way to honor a cherished friend.
This kerfuffle may be a symptom of the tricky relationship Republicans will have with health reform going forward. Although "repeal and replace" are still cornerstones of Republican health care plans, many of the details of what they would do after they scrapped the law are unclear. It seems quite possible that some of the fundamental tenets of Obamacare will be preserved or simply tweaked, not abolished.
And that's probably because 19 million additional people now have health insurance, and no one wants to be the President who took that away.