Posts Tagged Massachusetts

Cruz and Rubio Plot Trump Downfall in CNN GOP Presidential Debate

marco rubio and Ted cruz in iowaOutside Challenger Donald Trump’s grasp on the Republican presidential nomination growing increasingly stronger, the billionaire businessman’s rivals get one more chance to challenge the GOP front-runner on the debate stage before next week’s slate of Super Tuesday contests.

The situation is likely more dire for the other GOP candidates than they’d like voters to believe. Yet Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have so far shown little willingness to take on the former reality television star when the national spotlight shines brightest.

That could change Thursday night in Houston.

“The vast and overwhelming majority of Republicans do not want Donald Trump to be our nominee,” Rubio told NBC, suggesting that Trump is winning only because the other candidates are splitting up the majority of the electorate.

For his part, the New York billionaire predicted the relative civility between Rubio and himself is about to disappear. The ninth Republican debate of the presidential campaign will take place just a few days before 11 states hold GOP elections that will either cement Trump’s dominance, or let his rivals slow his march to his party’s presidential nomination.

Both Cruz and Rubio know full-well that the strategy of ignoring the front-runner is not working. How they tackle Trump remains to be seen, to date, Trump has proved largely immune to traditional political attacks, something he reveled in on Wednesday. “I seem to have a very good track record when to do go after me,” the New York real estate mogul told NBC.

The task is made more complicated by the shift from single-state campaigns to a new phase of the race, where the candidates must compete across several states at the same time. Next Tuesday features voting in a mix of states that include Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Massachusetts and Virginia, with more to come in the weeks after.

Trump won Nevada’s presidential caucuses on Tuesday with more than 45 percent of the vote, scoring his third consecutive primary victory in dominant fashion. Rubio edged out Cruz for runner-up for the second consecutive race, with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson far off the pace.

As they seek to become the Trump alternative, Cruz and Rubio have significant liabilities of their own.

Cruz comes into the debate at the weakest point of his presidential campaign after a staff shakeup and three consecutive third-place finishes.

The Texas senator ousted a senior aide on Monday after the aide promoted an inaccurate news report that Rubio had condemned the Bible during a chance encounter with Cruz’s father. The aide’s dismissal helps legitimize Trump and Rubio charges that Cruz has been running an unethical campaign.

Even while vulnerable, Cruz signaled an aggressive stance heading into the debate. He lashed out at Trump and Rubio as “Washington dealmakers” while talking to reporters in Houston on Wednesday. Rubio, Cruz said, had worked with Democrats to craft an immigration overhaul, while Trump has given money to Democrats and backed their priorities at times in recent years.

“I don’t think the people of Texas and I don’t think the people of this country want another Washington dealmaker to go and surrender more to the Democrats, giving in to the failed liberal agenda,” Cruz said.

Rubio, meanwhile, is just one debate removed from a primetime meltdown. The Florida senator repeated himself several times in a New Hampshire debate less than three weeks ago, triggering what he now calls “the New Hampshire disappointment.” He avoided a similar mistake in the subsequent debate, but critics in both parties will be laser-focused on anything that suggests the 44-year-old legislator isn’t sufficiently prepared to move into the White House.

But Rubio, who has been reluctant to publicly talk about Trump by name, stepped up his aggressiveness Wednesday.

In an appearance in Houston, he criticized Trump for what Rubio said was a failure to strongly oppose the federal health care law derided by critics as “Obamacare.”

The Florida senator also said “the front-runner in this race, Donald Trump, has said he’s not going to take sides on Israel versus the Palestinians because he wants to be an honest broker.”

Rubio said there was no such thing “because the Palestinian Authority, which has strong links to terror, they teach little kids, 5-year-olds, that it’s a glorious thing to kill Jews.” He also named Trump in accusing him of thinking “parts of Obamacare are pretty good” drawing boos.

Emboldened by the recent departure of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the race, Rubio has fresh momentum after two consecutive second-place finishes. His team is convinced they must dispatch with Cruz before turning their full attention to taking down Trump.

Rubio also said that he’d respond to Trump and Cruz if attacked in Thursday’s debate, but that, “I didn’t run for office to tear up other Republicans.”

And after eight debates, it’s unclear what sort of attacks could work against Trump. As his resume would suggest, he’s proven to be a master showman on primetime television.

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Santorum Super PAC up and running in Minnesota

The Red, White & Blue Fund, a Super PAC supporting  Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, is now up on the air in Minnesota with an ad linking his two top rivals to President Barack Obama.

The ad attacks former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for “supporting big government that strangles our nation’s ability to create jobs,” “bailouts” and “government-run healthcare.”

The latest spot from the Red, White & Blue fund comes on the heels of an earlier commercial buy in Springfield, Mo., as the former Pennsylvania senator tries to claw his way back into the hunt for the Republican presidential nomination. The group did not say how much money it was spending to air the ad, but said it was targeting the Minneapolis area. The Santorum campaign went on the air this week in Nevada with an ad similar to the one his allies are broadcasting in Minnesota.

Mr. Santorum has spent recent weeks struggling to emerge from the long shadow cast by Mr. Gingrich, who is positioning himself as the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney.

Minnesota’s non-binding caucus on Tuesday presents an intriguing target for the Santorum campaign because social-issues conservatives have been known to play an outsize role in determining candidates for state-house races and other local elections. With Mr. Romney looking vulnerable there, Santorum allies want to seize on Mr. Gingrich’s unsteady performance in recent weeks to score headlines for the former senator.

“Who can we trust?” the announcer in the ad asks. “Rick Santorum. He’s the only proven conservative with a bold plan to restore America’s greatness.”

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CNN Debate Fact summary by FACTCHECK.ORG

 GOP

Summary

Facts were sometimes used as blunt instruments as the four remaining GOP presidential candidates hammered away at each other in the last debate before Saturday’s South Carolina primary.

  • Santorum and Romney tangled on the Massachusetts health care law. Santorum wrongly claimed it was a “government-run” program. Romney erred when he said everybody was covered by private insurance, ignoring Medicare and his own expansion of Medicaid.
  • Santorum also fouled up when he claimed the state has “the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country.” Seven states and Washington, D.C., were higher in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.
  • Gingrich claimed Romney appointees “funded” an abortion clinic. The truth is that an autonomous state agency approved a tax-exempt loan — not direct taxpayer funding — and Romney said he wasn’t aware until after he left office.
  • Gingrich, slamming Jimmy Carter, said “unemployment went to 10.8 percent.” It did — nearly two years after Ronald Reagan took office. But it never exceeded 7.8 percent under Carter.
  • Gingrich claimed that “none” of the ideas on the website of his Center for Health Transformation resemble Obama’s program. Actually, we found a call there for an individual mandate, which Gingrich himself repeated as recently as last May.
  • Romney slammed Gingrich’s claim to have “helped” Reagan create jobs, saying Reagan mentioned Gingrich only once in his published diaries. That’s true. Reagan wrote that the young congressman’s 1983 suggestion to freeze spending “would cripple our defense program,” and he rejected it.
  • Ron Paul, a physician, claimed medicine “worked rather well” in the early 1960s. That was before Medicare, when in fact rising health care costs were forcing many of the elderly onto public assistance or charity care.

Analysis

They met in Charleston, only hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he was suspending his campaign and endorsing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Romney vs. Santorum: Massachusetts Health Care

Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both strayed from the facts at times as Santorum tried to bolster his claim that Romney’s health care law was a “disaster,” and Romney fought back saying Santorum’s claims were “wrong.” We’ll take that spirited exchange point by point:

Santorum wrong on “government-run” health care: Santorum called the law “a government-run health care system.” That’s not true. Like the federal law signed by Obama, the Massachusetts law doesn’t create a system in which the government is the insurer, or provider of health care. Instead, both laws mandated that all residents have insurance, expanding business for private carriers. They also offered subsidies to help lower-income residents buy private insurance, and they expanded Medicaid.

Romney wrong on “private” insurance: Romney was correct when he shot back that 92 percent of Massachusetts residents already had insurance in the state before the law went into effect. But he went too far when he said, “They still had the same private insurance. And the 8 percent of the uninsured, they bought private insurance, not government insurance.” Neither statement is entirely true.

Many of those insured previously were covered by Medicare (for those age 65 or older) or Medicaid (for low-income residents), which are both government programs, not “private insurance.”

Santorum right on added coverage (with a caveat): And as Santorum correctly noted, Romney’s program covered the uninsured in part by expanding Medicaid for some, and by providing state subsidies for the purchase of private insurance for some others.

Santorum: “[O]ver half the people that came on the rolls since you put Romneycare into effect are fully subsidized by the state of Massachusetts. And a lot of those are on the Medicaid program.

That’s correct: Of the 411,722 individuals who have gained insurance since the law was passed, 47 percent, or 193,393, have joined MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. The rest are on private insurance, with 77,330 buying their own insurance on the individual market and 158,973 getting plans with the help of state subsidies, as of Dec. 31, 2010.

In Romney’s defense, however, it should be noted that the ailing economy played a role in boosting the number of persons on Medicaid. In fact, the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute estimates that 76 percent of the increase in Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries would have happened without the law, and that only 61,000 of new MassHealth enrollees can be attributed to the legislation.

Another 75,000 are on fully subsidized plans, according to the Health Connector, the state exchange. All told, 65 percent of the newly insured are on fully subsidized insurance, whether through Medicaid or private insurance. So Santorum is correct, with the caveat that much of the Medicaid expansion would have occurred with or without Romney’s law.

As for Romney’s claim that “nothing changed” for the 92 percent of residents that already had insurance, that ignores the fact that they, too, are subject to the law requiring them to continue to have insurance — even if they leave their jobs, which is where most gained their coverage.

Santorum’s Dubious $8 Billion Claim: Santorum also said the state law was “$8 billion more expensive than under the current law.” (We assume he means the previous law.)

That questionable number comes from a conservative think tank that tallied not just the cost to the state government since the law was enacted in 2006, but also “new health care costs to the federal government and on state residents and businesses.” The June 2011 study came from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University.

A much lower estimate was issued by the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, whichestimated that the law cost $707 million in fiscal 2010, with the state paying half of that and the federal government paying the rest.

Santorum wrong on premium costs: Santorum claimed Massachusetts premiums are the highest in the country, 27 percent more than average. Neither claim is true.

Santorum: Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country. It is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country.

In fact, seven states and the District of Columbia, which got top honors, had higher premiums for family coverage, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund. Massachusetts had held the No. 1 spot in 2008 and 2009, but family premiums fell slightly to $14,606 in 2010. That’s only 5.3 percent more than the state average, nowhere near Santorum’s figure of 27 percent.

Romney’s right on premium costs: Romney responded to Santorum by saying:

Romney: Massachusetts, by the way, had the highest insurance costs before the plan was put in place and after. But fortunately, the rate of growth has slowed down a little less than the overall nation.

That’s right. The state’s slide in premium costs for 2010 does indeed mean the “rate of growth has slowed down,” as Romney said. We’d also note that premium costs in the state accounted for a lower percentage of the median household income than many other states.

Santorum misleads on waiting times: Santorum also gave a misleading view of the law’s impact on waiting times to see doctors:

Santorum: Over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients — primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days on average for the care.

Those numbers come from reports by the Massachusetts Medical Society, which said in 2009 that the average wait time in the state for both family medicine and internal medicine was 44 days. But the group has been lamenting long wait times and doctor shortages for many years, since before the law was enacted, a point it noted in a 2011 report titled “Access to Health Care in Massachusetts: The Implications of Health Care Reform.” The medical society said that “primary care shortages continue in Massachusetts, but they predate health reform by many years, and mirror shortages in many other areas of the country.”

Also, the average wait time for family medicine physicians was down to 36 days on average in 2011, but the wait time for internal medicine physicians was up to 48 days. It’s hard to draw firm conclusions on the law’s impact. The wait time for internal medicine was 47 days in 2005, a year before the law was enacted. Santorum is correct that more than half of primary care physicians are no longer accepting new patients.

The medical society said the issues of doctor shortages and primary care physicians not seeing new patients weren’t solely due to the health care law, but it had contributed to the problem. “Although these challenges are not all a direct result of health care reform, in some cases health care reform has exacerbated the situation,” the society said.

Romney’s rosy view of premiums: Romney also used the most favorable estimates in describing a decrease in premiums for plans on the individual market:

Romney: Individuals who wanted to buy their own insurance saw their rates — when they were not part of a big group — saw their rates drop by some 40 percent with our plan.

It’s true that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who advised the Romney administration on the health care law, told us that individual market premiums dropped by as much as 40 percent. But some of that was due to young, healthy persons buying cheaper plans in that market after the law. That brought the average price down. He told us the decrease would be smaller if an adjustment was made for the less generous benefits in many of the newly purchased policies.

We found an 18 percent decrease in premiums when we looked at the individual market premium in 2006, per person per month, and compared that with the premium in 2008.

Santorum’s “failure” claim: Finally, Santorum said the Massachusetts law was “an abject failure.” In fact, the law succeeded in achieving its main goal: reducing the number of uninsured. As of the end of 2010, 98.1 percent of state residents, and 99.8 percent of children, had insurance.

Gingrich vs. Romney: Funding Abortion

Gingrich revisited an issue that came up in 2007, saying that when Romney was governor — and after he had become an abortion opponent — “a branch of the government which included his appointees did agree to fund an abortion clinic for Planned Parenthood.” That’s true as far as it goes — but there’s more to the story.

Two months before Romney left office, Massachusetts’ economic development agency granted initial approval to a $5 million tax-exempt bond — not direct taxpayer funding — for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Worcester that would provide abortions, according to the Boston Globe.

And though Gingrich is correct that the agency, MassDevelopment, was controlled by Romney appointees, it was an autonomous authority and not under the governor’s direct control.

Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in 2007 that Romney was simply unaware the project was under consideration, and that Romney would have attempted to block it if he had known about it.

In a statement to the Globe, Ranch Kimball, the chairman of the authority and a Romney appointee, said he did not brief the governor’s office on the initial approval of the loans in late 2006. Final approval of the project came in February 2007, a month after Romney left office, and was ultimately approved by Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, an abortion rights supporter.

Gingrich Flunks History

Gingrich claimed that unemployment hit 10.8 percent under Democratic President Jimmy Carter:

Gingrich: Under Jimmy Carter, we had the wrong laws, the law regulations, the wrong leadership, and we killed jobs, we had inflation, we went to 10.8 percent unemployment. Under Ronald Reagan, we had the right jobs, the right laws, the right regulators, the right leadership. We created 16 million new jobs.

That’s wrong. The jobless rate never was higher than 7.8 percent during Carter’s presidency, and was as low as 5.6 percent.

The rate did later rise to 10.8 percent in November and December of 1982 — but that was nearly two years into Reagan’s first term. The rate declined slowly from there, and was still 7.3 percent when Reagan was sworn in for his second term. It did not get below 6 percent until late 1987, and was 5.4 percent when Reagan left office in January, 1989.

Romney vs. Gingrich: Reagan’s Diaries

With Gingrich claiming credit for helping create jobs during Reagan’s presidency, Romney cracked that Gingrich rated just one mention in the Reagan diaries, and not a particularly flattering mention at that.

Romney: I mean, Mr. Speaker, it was — you talk about all the things you did with Ronald Reagan and the Reagan revolution and the jobs created during the Reagan years and so forth. I mean, I looked at the Reagan diary. You’re mentioned once in Ronald Reagan’s diary.

And in the diary, he says you had an idea in a meeting of young congressmen, and it wasn’t a very good idea and he dismissed it. That’s the entire mention.

Just to check, we did a quick word search on the The Reagan Diaries – a daily diary President Reagan kept by hand — and as Romney said, there was but one mention of  Gingrich by name. It came in an entry for Monday, Jan. 3, 1983 — when Gingrich had been in the House barely four years.

The Reagan Diaries: A tough budget meeting & how to announce the deficits we’ll have — they are horrendous & yet the Dems. in Cong. are saying there is no room for budget cuts. Met with a group of young Repub. Congressmen. Newt Gingrich has a proposal for freezing the budget at the 1983 level. It’s a tempting idea except that it would cripple our defense program. And if we make an exception on that every special interest group will be asking for the same.

Given his tough budget-cutting stance in the 2012 campaign, Gingrich might be quite proud his budget-freezing proposal then as a young congressman from Georgia’s 6th district. But at the time, the Gipper didn’t think the idea was too practical.

Gingrich vs. Obama: Health Care

Gingrich — under attack from Santorum for once supporting a government mandate requiring individuals to obtain health insurance — denied that anything like Obama’s health care program could be found on the website of Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation.

Gingrich: And the fact is, I helped found the Center for Health Transformation. I wrote a book called “Saving Lives and Saving Money” in 2002. You can go to healthtransformation.net and you’ll see hundreds of ideas, none of which resemble Barack Obama’s programs.

That’s not quite true. Wayne Oliver, a former lobbyist for the Georgia Pharmacy Association and a vice president at the center, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution April 23, 2009 on the so-called public option. Oliver wrote in opposition to a public-option plan, which was one of the options being considered by the Democrats at the beginning of the debate on a federal health care law. In the op-ed, Oliver says: “Everyone should be required to have health insurance coverage; or, if they are opposed to insurance, they should post a bond.”

That same position was also voiced by Gingrich — most recently during a May 15, 2011 interview on “Meet the Press.” He said, “I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond … or in some way you indicate you’re going to be held accountable.” And he acknowledged that would be “a variation” of the individual mandate idea.

In addition, the center published a book called, “Paper Kills 2.0: How Healthcare IT Can Save Your Life and Your Money.” The book, which is promoted on the center’s website,  advocates for improving patient outcomes by upgrading and expanding the use of electronic patient records. Gingrich and former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle wrote the book’s foreword. Daschle was Obama’s first choiceto become the health and human services secretary and oversee his administration’s effort to change the health care laws to make insurance more affordable and accessible. The Affordable Care Act contains numerous health information technology provisions, as did the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is known as the stimulus bill.

Paul: Medicine ‘Worked Rather Well’ Before Medicare

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a physician, claimed medicine “worked rather well” in the early 1960s:

Paul: I had the privilege of practicing medicine in the early ’60s before we had any government. It worked rather well and there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care.

That was before Medicare was signed into law in 1965. But as early as 1959, during the Republican administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a report to Congress stating that the rising cost of health care was forcing some people onto public assistance or charity from hospitals, and more so for the elderly than for younger persons:

HEW, 1959: The rising cost of medical care, and particularly of hospital care, over the past decade has been felt by persons of all ages. Older persons have larger than average medical care needs. As a group they use about two-and-a-half times as much general hospital care as the average for persons under age 65, and they have special need for long-term institutional care. Their incomes are generally considerably lower than those of the rest of the population, and in many cases are either fixed or declining in amount. They have less opportunity than employed persons to spread the cost burden through health insurance. A larger proportion of the aged than of other persons must turn to public assistance for payment of their medical bills or rely on ‘free’ care from hospitals and physicians.

Santorum vs. Obama: Cutting Veterans’ Benefits

Santorum criticized Obama for proposing cuts in military veterans’ benefits.

Santorum: We have the president of the United States who said he is going to cut veterans benefits, cut our military, at a time when these folks are four, five, six, seven tours, coming back, in and out of jobs, sacrificing everything for this country.

Much has been written about the president’s plans to reduce the size and cost of the U.S. military, but what about veterans’ benefits? The president’s deficit reduction plan does indeed propose some changes in military health and retirement programs.  The plan would:

  • Impose a $200 annual fee on TRICARE for Life recipients. TRICARE for Life is a supplemental health insurance program for veterans 65 and over. It covers certain out-of-pocket expenses not covered by Medicare. Currently, TRICARE for Life does not charge fees or premiums. The administration estimates the proposal would save about $6.7 billion over 10 years.
  • Increase prescription drug benefit co-pays. The administration estimates this proposal would save $20.6 billion over 10 years.
  • Create a commission to study military retirement benefits. The deficit-reduction plan says the current benefits are “generous” and “out of line with most other Government or private retirement plans.”

The proposal was submitted in September, and has not become law.

– by Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson and D’Angelo Gore.

Source:http://factcheck.org/2012/01/south-carolina-smackdown/

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Romney puts his big Mitt’s in it – ‘I like being able to fire people’ at New Hampshire event

GOP Front runner Mitt Romney, who has been under attack for his business record over the last two days from his rivals, made a big mistake at an event in New Hampshire today making an ill-timed comment saying,  “I like being able to fire people” which his opponents and the DNC immediately seized on as further evidence of his aloofness and out-of-touch big business executive approach to ordinary people.

Romney made the comment while plugging a health care approach that would allow people to purchase their own insurance, which Romney said would give the companies an incentive to keep their customers happy and healthy.

“It also means that if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them,” Romney said. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say, you know, I’m going to go get someone else to provide that service to me.”

The comment came a day after Romney made another comment, that he feared several times getting a “pink slip,” though he and his campaign did not describe when the multimillionaire venture and equity investor ever worried about being dismissed from a job.

Romney was also confronted by a representative from the United Auto Workers union who confronted him about his opposition to the auto bailout. After his speech was over, a woman angrily criticized him for not backing a national health care plan that was modelled after his Massachusetts law.

“When you signed into law RomneyCare, I was excited,” said the woman, “You seemed proud to do that. And then when the country copied you, it just seemed that there was hope for people like me.”

Romney grew testy, asking her three times how she’s been since the law was passed.

“I don’t have health care, sir,” she said. “I’m scared.”

“That tells you something, doesn’t?” Romney replied. “Tells you something.”

“It hasn’t gone into effect yet, sir,” the lady said. “Your market doesn’t work for me, sir. I’m scared. I’m frightened. My colleagues in Massachusetts have hope that they have access to health care.”

“And who was the governor that put that in place?” he responded.

With that, Romney’s aides began escorting him out of the room, saying they were running behind schedule following the event at the Radisson Hotel at a Nashua Chamber of Commerce breakfast,

Romney began the speech this morning by downplaying some of his success, saying he started at the bottom and worked his way up.

“I think some people imagine, by the way, that I just went directly to the top positions in industry and business, that I started off as vice chairman or chairman or CEO of Bain,” he said. “You probably know that I started off actually at the entry level, coming out of graduate school.”

“If I’m president of the United States, I will take my 25 years of business experience in the private sector and use that to rekindle the basis of our economic foundation,” he said.

“I didn’t mention the president’s rhetoric. Sometimes I don’t think he likes you very much. I love you,” Romney added. “I love what you do. I love the fact that you’re taking risks, that you’re pursuing your dreams, that you’re hiring people, that you’re paying taxes.”

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Gingrich in 2006: Romneycare is ‘Exciting’ and ‘Has Tremendous Potential’

Lest you think that Ron Paul is the only Republican Presidential candidate with newsletter problems, Brody Mullins and Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal have unearthed one by Newt Gingrich, also flagged by Andrew Kaczynski. The since-redacted April 2006 newsletter from Newt Gingrich’s Center for Health Transformation contains a section called “Newt Notes,” in which Gingrich writes that “the most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.”

Gingrich New Hampshire

Gingrich writes that he and his colleagues “agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans.” He strongly endorses the individual mandate: “The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own. We agree strongly with this principle.”

Gingrich makes one technical critique of the Massachusetts mandate: that the state “has an exhaustive list of health coverage regulations prohibiting insurers from offering more basic, pared-down policies with higher deductibles,” leading to high insurance costs, which in turn make health insurance less affordable for lower-income individuals. Hence, “in our estimation, Massachusetts residents earning little more than $30,000 a year are in jeopardy of being priced out of the system…We propose that a more realistic approach might be to limit the mandate to those individuals earning upwards of $54,000 per year.”

However, Gingrich expressed enthusiasm for the overall concept of Romneycare. “While the Commonwealth’s plan will naturally endure tremendous scrutiny from those who assert that the law will not work as intended, Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system.”

A Gingrich spokesman, R.C. Hammond, is spinning Gingrich’s comments about the income threshold for Romneycare’s individual mandate to mean that Gingrich opposed Romneycare. “Being critical…isn’t endorsing it,” he told the Wall Street Journal. But that’s balderdash, as Gingrich’s complete commentary makes clear. Hammond denied to theJournal that Gingrich wrote the commentary in question, despite the fact that it’s entitled “Newt Notes” and employs Gingrich’s signature rhetorical flourishes.

As the Journal notes, Gingrich was singing a different tune at the Western Republican Presidential Debate held last October in Las Vegas, describing Romneycare as “one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system.”

The Boston Herald today reported that the state of Massachusetts is fining a local small business $3,000 because their $750 a month insurance plan is inadequate, according to the bureaucrats in Boston. Now, there’s a fundamental difference between trying to solve the problems of this country from the top down and trying to create environments in which doctors and patients and families solve the problem from the bottom up.

And candidly, Mitt, your plan ultimately, philosophically — it’s not “Obamacare.” That’s not a fair charge. But your plan essentially is one more big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system which, candidly, could not have been done by any other state, because no other state had a Medicaid program as lavish as yours and no other state got as much money from the federal government under the Bush administration for this experiment.

So there’s a lot of big government behind “Romneycare,” not as much as “Obamacare,” but a heck of a lot more than — than your campaign is admitting.

I fully appreciate that there are conservative voters who can’t forgive Mitt Romney for Romneycare. But what I don’t understand is why some of these conservatives think that Newt Gingrich is the solution.

Here is the full text of Gingrich’s April 2006 commentary on Romneycare:

The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.

We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans. Individuals without coverage often do not receive quality medical attention on par with those who do have insurance. We also believe strongly that personal responsibility is vital to creating a 21st Century Intelligent Health System. Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers.

The Romney plan attempts to bring everyone into the system. The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own. We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan. Under the new bill, Massachusetts residents earning more than 300% of the federal poverty level (approximately $30,000 for an individual) will not be eligible for any subsidies. State House officials had originally promised that there would be new plans available at about $200 a month, but industry experts are now predicting that the cheapest plan will likely cost at least $325 a month. This estimate totals about $4000 per year, or about 1/5 of a $30,000 annual take-home income.

While in theory the plan should be affordable if the whole state contributes to the cost, the reality is that Massachusetts has an exhaustive list of health coverage regulations prohibiting insurers from offering more basic, pared-down policies with higher deductibles. (This is yet another reminder that America must establish a cross-state insurance market that gives individuals the freedom to shop for insurance plans in states other than their own.)

In our estimation, Massachusetts residents earning little more than $30,000 a year are in jeopardy of being priced out of the system. In the event that this occurs, Governor Romney will be in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Mike Dukakis, whose 1988 health plan was hailed as a save-all but eventually collapsed when poorly-devised payment structures created a malaise of unfulfilled promises. We propose that a more realistic approach might be to limit the mandate to those individuals earning upwards of $54,000 per year.

While the Commonwealth’s plan will naturally endure tremendous scrutiny from those who assert that the law will not work as intended, Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system. I hope that Massachusetts’ initiative to provide affordable, quality health insurance for all continues to ignite even more debate around the subject of how to best address our nation’s uninsured crisis and the critical problems within the health system at large.

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