In contrast to new report, Club For Growth defended Romney in 2007

Jonathan Strong | Contributor

A scathing new report from conservative group Club for Growth says former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, “flip-flopper,” “should admit that Romneycare is a failure, and soon.”

The new report notes Romneycare is “The bill that Governor Romney signed with a grinning Ted Kennedy in the background on April 12, 2006.”

However, Club for Growth’s parallel report from 2007 included some additional thoughts at the end of that same paragraph.

That report says Romneycare, “The bill that Governor Romney signed with a grinning Ted Kennedy in the background on April 12, 2006, has been the victim of much scorn from many economic conservatives. Some of those criticisms are valid. However, Romney also deserves credit for trying to move a terrible system towards free-market improvements.”

In general, the thrust of the 2007 report was that, although there are significant criticisms of Romneycare from the right, Romney worked hard to improve the law in the face of a liberal legislature.

Romney “was forced to contend with a liberal Legislature that rejected many of his positive reforms,” the 2007 report says.

(No Mitt Romney feeding frenzy; Pawlenty refuses to attack)

“Most of the blame for the deficiencies in the Massachusetts plan lies with the liberal Legislature which, absent the resistance of Governor Romney, almost certainly would have enacted a major tax increase while moving healthcare reform in the worst possible direction,” the 2007 report says.

In contrast, the new, 2011 report does not once refer to the “liberal legislature” in Massachusetts in connection with Romneycare.

Also, instead of anticipating criticism from economic conservatives, the new report sides with that criticism entirely. “Romney has rightly received much criticism from economic conservatives for the obvious similarities between his plan and President Obama’s command and control plan,” the new report says.

The new, 2011 report suggests it’s Romney’s recent decision to defend Romneycare that provoked the group to rebuke Romney.

“Governor Romney still defends his plan five years later while publicly saying as President he would repeal and replace ObamaCare. But the two plans are similar in at least three significant ways,” the 2011 report says.

(Karger’s voter fraud allegations against Mitt Romney won’t be investigated)

Barney Keller, a spokesman for Club for Growth, explained the differences as stemming from events that took place in the four years since the group issued its previous report. During that time, President Obama enacted his health care law, and research on Romneycare has shown it is not controlling health care costs.

“Four years ago, just as we are doing today, we fairly evaluated all the candidates based on their economic records – and as part of that we also evaluated Governor Romney’s Health Care Plan. Four years later, it is has failed to control costs, and even more distressingly, served as a model for ObamaCare. Back in 2007, we opposed the mandate, expansion of subsidies, and the exchange in RomneyCare and we oppose them today,” Keller said.

In 2007, Club for Growth said the individual mandate in Romneycare “rankles libertarian instincts and necessitates a government-defined standard for compliance—and Romney should be taken to task for this.”

But the report also noted Romney had proposed what the group thought was a more attractive alternative that was rejected by liberals in Massachusetts.

(Despite opposition effort, Romney says he lines up with the Tea Party)

“Romney’s original proposal offered individuals the option of forgoing insurance and posting a bond in an interest-bearing account, but the Legislature made sure that option never saw the light of day,” the 2007 report says.

The 2011 report simply says “Both [Obamacare and Romneycare] have an individual mandate that requires people to purchase a private good – in this case, health insurance – and levies a financial penalty against those who don’t.

Regarding the health insurance “exchange” in Romneycare, the Club for Growth said Romney’s plan wasn’t “ideal” but did “dramatically facilitate individually-owned health insurance plans,” an end supported by the organization.

Keller says that while the 2007 report describes the exchange in Romneycare as “dramatically facilitating” a good thing, that doesn’t mean Club for Growth supported it.

“The postal service dramatically facilitates the delivery of mail, and Amtrak dramatically facilitates the delivery of people by rail, but that doesn’t mean we support them either,” Keller said.

In the 2011 report, the Club for Growth says Romneycare, like Obamacare, implements “a new government bureaucracy called an ‘exchange’ through which all insurance policies are approved, sold, and heavily regulated.”

Regarding subsides, the 2007 Club for Growth report did ding Romney for his law’s “overly generous” subsidies. But the report adds the design of the subsidies “encourage[s] individual ownership of private health insurance, broaden[s] the private health insurance pool, distribute[s] risk over a wider spectrum, and may lower overall costs.”

In the 2011 report, the brief discussion of the subsidies describes them as similar to those in Obamacare.

The 2007 report also notes Romney was constrained as a Governor by the structure of federal laws.

“It is important to state that many of the problems that plague our healthcare system are rooted in federal law, leaving governors with their hands tied,” the report says.

The 2011 report does not include any such caveat.

The 2011 report does note that research since Romneycare was enacted has suggested the law is not controlling health care costs like Romney vowed it would.

“At the time of its passage, Governor Romney claimed that under his plan ‘the costs of health care will be reduced,’ but the Cato Institute has highlighted several statistics that show that Romneycare increased costs, including the fact that premiums rose faster post-Romneycare than anywhere else in the nation, 21-46% faster than the national average,” the 2011 report says.

The 2007 report also says Romneycare “is not a model upon which a national plan should be built.”

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