Romney Inadvertently Defends Obamacare (Again)

Mitt Romney.<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/22007612@N05/6149218050/">Gage Skidmore</a>/Flickr

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Republicans hate Obamacare. Mitt Romney can’t stop defending it.

Not directly of course. But in Thursday night’s debate, just as in the one last week, Romney was confronted over his implementation of health care reform in Massachusetts that served in part as the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act. When Rick Santorum accused the ex-governor of supporting a “top-down government-run health care system,” Romney calmly explained that under his plan, Massachusetts residents were still purchasing private insurance. When Santorum reminded Romney that his plan compelled individuals without health insurance to buy it on “condition of breathing,” Romney gave an eloquent, if conservative, defense of the individual mandate:

[F]or the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them, if you can afford insurance, buy it yourself, any one of the plans out there, you can choose any plan. There’s no government plan. And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn’t have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care. So we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care. And that was the conclusion that we reached.

All of this can be said about Obamacare. It doesn’t “take over” the health care system, it regulates a health insurance market in which private companies compete. Individuals are compelled to buy insurance because, if they don’t, taxpayers ends up paying for their health care once they get sick. Romney simply can’t explain why Romneycare isn’t socialism without also explaining why Obamacare isn’t socialism. He can’t defend Romneycare’s individual mandate as an issue of personal responsibility without also doing the same with the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

The strange part wasn’t that Romney offered this defense—after all, he’s done it before. It’s that when he offered it, the Republican audience actually applauded (via BuzzFeed).

Now, the Affordable Care Act is anathema to the Republican base. Every Republican candidate for president has vowed to repeal it. Yet framed in conservative terms, and defended by the likely Republican nominee, a Republican audience applauded its key concepts. Not every Republican loved Romney’s health care plan when it was implemented, but the perception of the Affordable Care Act as the twilight of freedom in America is largely a function of partisanship rather than ideology. 

The mandate may not survive the Supreme Court. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that more than half of Americans think the mandate is unconstitutional, and the court is not immune to public sentiment. Partisanship is a powerful force, one that not only gives the Supreme Court popular cover for repealing the Affordable Care Act by fiat, but also will likely lead to the Republicans nominating Obamacare’s most eloquent defender.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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