White House met with three Romney advisors to draft Obamacare

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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The Obama administration may have relied much more heavily on Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare legislation as a blueprint for Obamacare than was previously believed.

White House visitor logs obtained by NBC News revealed that three of Romney’s healthcare advisers had up to a dozen meetings with senior administration officials, including one in the Oval Office presided over by President Barack Obama.

“They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model,” MIT economist and Romney healthcare adviser Jon Gruber told NBC.

What’s more, the records show Gruber was given a $380,000 contract in 2009 to help draft new legislation based on the Massachusetts healthcare law.

The White House tapped another Romney adviser, John Kingsdale, who in 2006 was put in charge of the state agency tasked with implementing Romney’s healthcare plan. In 2009, Kingsdale attended three White House meetings on healthcare.

A third Romney adviser, John McDonough, attended four White House healthcare meetings. McDonough shared an “innovator in health” award with the Massachusetts governor, after leading a health advocacy group in Massachusetts and working with Romney as a consumer advocate on the legislation.

Though Obama has repeatedly said that he modeled Obamacare on Romney’s healthcare plan, Romney has tried to wash his hands of the association.

“He does me the great favor of saying that I was the inspiration of his plan. If that’s the case, why didn’t you call me?” Romney said in a GOP debate. “Why didn’t you ask what was wrong? Why didn’t you ask if this was an experiment, what worked and what didn’t? … I would have told him, ‘What you’re doing, Mr. President, is going to bankrupt us.’”

Obamacare’s most unpopular feature, the individual mandate that requires all citizens to purchase a healthcare plan, was lifted wholesale from Romney’s healthcare reform package, which he touted as a way of “expanding coverage to all our citizens.”

Gruber’s involvement is the most damning association for Romney, and the GOP candidate has done his best to play down the connection. Gruber, however, has not.

He told NBC that Romney was “the father of health-care reform. I think he is the single person most responsible for health care reform in the United States. … If Mitt Romney had not stood up for this reform in Massachusetts … I don’t think it would have happened nationally. So I think he really is the guy with whom it all starts.”