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Obamacare vs. Romneycare

The Differences Between the Two Laws and Why They Matter

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While we won't pretend that Mitt Romney's health care law in Massachusetts is a conservative's dream come true, we will contend that there are clear differences between Obamacare and Romneycare. The biggest differences are probably circumstances. Romney's bill actually reflected the make-up and values of the state he governed. But there are also differences in leadership. Romney worked with everyone, including leading conservative organizations who backed the bill at the time. Let's take a look at the true differences between the Romney and Obama health care laws, and why those differences matter in 2012.

Romneycare Had Broad, Bipartisan Support

To be clear, the Romney healthcare law signed in Massachusetts featured sweeping reforms that went further than just about any other state has on the issue. But a clear difference between Obamacare and Romneycare is that Romney’s bill actually had broad support from Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, and independents. The bill passed the state legislature by a near-unanimous vote of 154-2 while the state senate passed the bill without a dissenting voice, 37-0.

Compare this to the hyper-partisan Obamacare law that was created behind closed doors, by one party, and where voters were told by Democrat Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, that they had to pass the bill to see what was in it. The bill was unable to get the vote of one single Republican in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Despite having overwhelming majorities in the US House, the bill barely passed as even 34 Democrats opposed the bill while just enough “moderate” Democrats voted for the law. (Most of these “moderate” Democrats were later either too afraid to run for re-election or soundly beaten in 2010).

Yes, Romney’s healthcare bill had the backing of both Ted Kennedy as well as The Heritage Foundation. Romney sought the help of the Heritage Foundation in crafting the bill. In the immediate aftermath, Romney was regularly praised nationwide by fellow Republican governors (and future presidential primary opponents) for passing the law.

Voters Actually Said “Yes” to Romney’s Law

In no uncertain terms, Obamacare was never popular. It wasn’t popular while it was being debated, it wasn’t popular when it passed in 2009, and it remains unpopular in 2012 heading into the presidential election. For over three years Obama’s health care law has regularly hit double-digits in disapproval, while the desire to repeal the law remains high.

Compare this to Romney's healthcare law in Massachusetts. Romney's version has always had broad support among the voters of his state. The bill was not passed against the voters' will. The bill was not passed behind closed doors. The bill was and is popular. Three years after passage, Romneycare was supported by greater than 2-1 margins by residents in Massachusetts. Other polls have shown support even higher than that. Oh, and in the same year that poll was taken, those same Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown to the US Senate to replace Ted Kennedy. His main promise? To be the 41st vote against Obamacare.

Shows Why Federalism is Great

Romneycare and Obamacare are two perfect case studies as to why federalism and strong states' rights are so strongly supported by conservatives. Romney's health care law accurately reflected the will, culture, and values of the state he governed. People in Texas, Louisiana, and Nebraska probably would have revolted over such a law if it were passed in their states. But what makes a decentralized government so great is that Texas can do what they please, and Massachusetts can do what they please. And if you are a resident of one state or the other, you are free to move to any other state you like. The problem with Obamacare is it took a law more extreme than the one in Massachusetts and forced it upon every single state in the union, with no way to escape.

Obama’s Dilemma

Obama has not gone to great lengths to highlight the "signature achievement" of his first term during the 2012 presidential campaign. When he does, he not-so-surprisingly somehow makes the law Romney's fault. Obama's entire defense of Obamacare against Romney criticism is that, in reality, he basically just copied Romneycare and turned it into a national a law. With that argument, Obama believes he has effectively done damage control on the matter. Of course, we already highlighted the differences in public support, legislative support, and state-vs-federal distinction that makes the two bills completely different.

But Obama has other problems with this argument. First, Obama is essentially giving credit to Romney for what is his signature legislation. He is claiming that he basically just plagiarized from Romney. So Obama, in defending Obamacare, is left in the unfortunate position of claiming he stole the idea of the legislation he thinks is wonderful from his Republican opponent, a guy we shouldn't vote for. This argument clearly will not sway conservative voters away from Romney, so it is a weird one to make. But it does make it much harder for the Democrats to declare Romney as "extreme" on health care or in general. If anything, since Romney still favors the law he passed in Massachusetts (a law Obama continues to praise), it might actually make independents like Romney more. After all, even the guy who passed Romneycare thinks Obamacare is a crazy idea.

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