Romney ramps up health care offensive with op-ed, speech

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is going on the offensive on health care, penning a USA Today op-ed Wednesday ahead of key health care speech Thursday.

Fighting to shake of the ill effects of the health care law he helped enact in Massachusetts, Romney wrote an op-ed for USA Today, to be published in print tomorrow but available online now.

He is scheduled to deliver a health care speech at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor Thursday to address the issue that could be the biggest obstacle in his possible run for president.

“We have taken a turn for the worse with ObamaCare, with its high taxes and vastly expanded federal control over our lives,” Romney wrote Wednesday in USA Today. “I believe the better course is to empower the states to determine their own health care futures.”

One key word not present in the op-ed: mandate. Republicans generally opposed the mandate in President Obama’s health care law that requires people to get health care coverage, either from their employer or from the federal government.

The trouble for Romney is that he supported a government mandate to buy health care coverage on the state level, rather than the federal level. In a 2007 interview with Meet the Press host Tim Russert, Romney called a health insurance mandate on the state level “a terrific idea.”

“I think you’re going to find, when it’s all said and done, after all these states that are laboratories of democracy get their chance to try their own plans, that those who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach,” Romney told Meet the Press.

Don’t expect Romney to make any mention of mandate in Thursday’s speech.

“My plan is to harness the power of markets to drive positive change in health insurance and health care,” Romney wrote Wednesday. “And we can do so with state flexibility (unlike ObamaCare’s top-down federal approach), no new taxes (as opposed to hundreds of billions of dollars of new taxes under ObamaCare), and better consumer choice (as opposed to bureaucratic, government choice under ObamaCare).”

The question for Romney will be, will his nuanced message be understood and accepted by potential Republican voters?