In First New Hampshire Forum, Romney Dances On Health Care

Lauren Victoria Burke

The first major New Hampshire candidate forum of the 2012 cycle just wrapped up and, not surprisingly, Mitt Romney — the man leading the polls in the state that will host the first primary next year — was asked a direct question about the health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts.

The forum was sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brothers-funded group that helped tens of thousands pack DC to protest the health care law signed by President Obama last year, which was modeled in part on the plan Romney put into law when he was a chief executive.

Given the audience — and Republican disdain for the health care law in general — it was perhaps unsurprising that Romney declined to give a direct answer to the question about his law.“Governor, given the benefit of hindsight, would you still sign the health care bill that you signed into law when you were governor of Massachusetts?” moderator Tim Phillips, president of the AFP Foundation asked.

“I was hoping I’d get that question!” Romney exclaimed, before declining to offer a straight up yes or no. Instead, he laid out a strong defense of his own healthcare law that sounded a lot like the defense of the national law Obama has offered in the past.

Let me tell you, in my state like in most states, there are a lot of problems in health care. You’ve got people who change jobs, lose insurance and can’t get reinsured. You’ve got people who have prexisting conditions that can’t get insurance. You have something else you’re concerned about: people who don’t have insurance at all. And then you’ve got some folks who show up at a hospital with a heart attack or come from an automobile accident and they rack up huge bills — $100,000 bill, $200,000 bill, and they don’t have any insurance. And guess who they expect to pay? You, the taxpayers. In my state, we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars giving out free care to people who could’ve afforded it for themselves. So I went to work to try and solve a problem. It may not be perfect — by the way, it isn’t perfect.

Following this defense of the coverage mandate he made law for the people of Massachusetts, he ripped into the coverage mandate Obama made law for the American people, offering a similar attack on the national law — namely that what’s good for Massachusetts isn’t necessarily good for America — that he’s offered in the recent past. (At times before the recent past, Romney’s said his reform plan could be a national model.)

“One thing I’d never do would be to impose a one-size-fits-all plan like Obamacare on the nation,” Romney said. “That’s simply wrong, and it’s unconstitutional.”