Romney: No Apologies For Romneycare

Written by Noah Kristula-Green on Thursday May 12, 2011

In a speech Thursday, Mitt Romney defended his Massachusetts health care plan and argued that it didn't resemble the President's health reforms.

Here is a link to Romney's power point slide.

Here is where he defends the mandate:

For some, Romney's ability to defend the mandate with a power point slide is either a great sign of his business sense, or just another reason to dismiss him as a technocrat who doesn't view the world with a conservative ideological lens.


Romney wanted the majority of his speech to focus on his plan to repeal the Obama healthcare law, but he knows that most commentators are watching this speech to see how he defends his mandate. He ended up defending the Massachusetts mandate passionately. Some would say he gave a stronger defense of why mandates work then Obama ever did for his own healthcare plan.

The problem Romney faces is that conservatives believe that the individual mandate is an unconstitutional infringement of liberty. Thus, the Romney solution to provide affordable healthcare in Massachusetts is thus:

-liberty killing


-and a template for Obamacare.

The Romney's defense had several parts. While they made logical sense. They will likely not serve him well in the GOP primary.

1. Romney argues that since it's a state-level policy, then a mandate in Massachusetts is ok. By this logic, President Romney would be ok if Vermont embraced single-payer, and a more conservative state decided to give no healthcare.

2. Romney also defended the mechanisms of the mandate itself. In this part of the speech, Romney clearly understood why a mandate makes technocratic sense. He understands the free rider problem that the mandate is meant to defeat.

3. Romney also tried to play down the mandate's importance to his overall plan. He argued that the mandate didn't really affect that many people in Massachusetts, arguing that 94% of the population was already insured so it was only meant to help 6%.

4. Unlike the Wall Street Journal, Romney thinks that 6% of people without insurance is a problem! "6% sounds small, but it is a half a million people." Romney noted that being without insurance is "a frightening experience".

5. And Romney ultimately will not apologize for providing insurance. He is aware that "that explanation is not going to satisfy everybody".

And the ultimate reason he won't apologize? "It wouldn't be honest. I in fact did what I think was right for the people of my state."

He later reiterates this during the Q&A session: "Am I proud of the fact that we did the best for our people and got them insured? Absolutely"


Romney says he will introduce his own Medicare plan "but it wont be identical" to the Ryan plan.

This is big and counts as news. It means that Romney will not be running on the GOP budget.


Romney is putting the issues with the Mandate front and center. I'll post my extended notes on this soon, but the short preview is this: it won't satisfy his critics, but at least Romney defends his mandate.


It's starting late, but Romney has begun.

A few quick notes: this is a presentation with power point slides. Not a speech with flags like his "Faith in America" speech.


While we wait for the speech to start. CNN has live feed here. C-Span is also supposed to be carrying the speech but it hasn't started yet.


At 2pm ET today, Mitt Romney will give a speech about healthcare at the University of Michigan. Healthcare has been a millstone around Romney’s neck since his signature achievement as governor of Massachusetts: legislating universal coverage for all citizens by having an individual mandate to compel the purchase of insurance.  This policy is also at the center of Obama’s own healthcare law and one which Republicans have decided is an unconstitutional infringement of liberty. The challenge facing Romney is clear, is there anything he can say to put this issue to rest?

Romney has given various answers when asked about the similarities between his healthcare law and the president’s. When asked about it at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s meeting in Las Vegas, Romney said that if the president’s and his healthcare policies were so similar, then “why didn't you [Obama] call me? Why didn't you ask what was wrong? Why didn't you ask if this was an experiment, what worked and what didn't?"

However as we’ve noted at FrumForum, Romney himself hasn’t been clear about what has and has not worked with his own plan. Romney is certainly trying hard to convince Republicans that he is with them on the healthcare issue and will say that he thinks the law is unconstitutional. But Romney still defends what he did in Massachusetts. This contrasts with Pawlenty who is begging for forgiveness from the GOP electorate for his old support for cap-and-trade.

Romney has offered a preview of the health reform proposals he will run on in USA Today. If his speech stays close to the material in the op-ed, then we might get a lot of ideas on what Romney wants to do going forward, but few apologies for how he handled healthcare in Massachusetts. FrumForum will track the speech to see how Romney makes his case.

Follow Noah on Twitter: @noahkgreen