Time's Karen Tumulty suggested Mitt Romney for Health and Human Services secretary, citing the role he played in creating Massachusetts' universal health care system as governor, while The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder pointed to the Massachusetts plan to suggest Romney for "White House health care czar." But neither Tumulty nor Ambinder noted that Romney rejected applying the Massachusetts plan to the entire nation, saying "[a] one-size fits-all national health care system is bound to fail."
On February 3, Time magazine national political correspondent Karen Tumulty suggested that President Obama consider former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for the position of Health and Human Services secretary, pointing to the part he played in creating Massachusetts' "universal health care program" as governor. Atlantic associate editor Marc Ambinder also pointed to the Massachusetts plan in suggesting Romney be named "White House health care czar." However, neither Tumulty nor Ambinder noted that Romney rejected applying the Massachusetts plan to the entire nation, saying that "[a] one-size fits-all national health care system is bound to fail," or that Romney reportedly derided Obama's health care proposal as "socialized medicine" during the 2008 presidential campaign.
In a post on Time's Swampland blog, Tumulty wrote that Romney, her "suggested nominee," is "the only person in America who has ever put together and passed a universal health care program." Ambinder asserted that "what Romney, in a bipartisan fashion, was able to do in Massachusetts -- even with caveats -- is pretty much the same as what Obama wants to do on a national level."
However, while Romney stated during an August 24, 2007, speech before the Florida Medical Association, "I like the plan we came up with in Massachusetts," he also said that "what works in Massachusetts probably won't work in Texas. It's going to need a different plan." From Romney's speech:
ROMNEY: Now, my experience is that effective health care reform that is going to reduce cost and get more people insured has to begin at the state level.
ROMNEY: What other differences between states? Well, the-percentage uninsured is quite different. In my state, it was 7-percent. In Texas, it is 25-percent. So what works in Massachusetts probably won't work in Texas. It's going to need a different plan. And in Florida, you are approximately 20-percent uninsured. So you are seeing some pretty big variations between different states.
ROMNEY: A one-size-fits-all national health care system is bound to fail. It ignores the very dramatic differences between states, and it relies on a Washington bureaucracy to manage. You think about this. I do not want the guys that ran the Katrina cleanup running our health care system.
So in my review, health care reform has to take a federalist approach. And the federal role, therefore, is to facilitate and encourage reforms, like Tommy Thompson and Mike Levitt did for us, giving us flexibility in our funding so we could create our own program. But we don't mandate those reforms. We let states decide how they are going to craft their own program. States are able to craft programs that match their unique needs and, of course, we let states remain as the laboratories of innovation. And by the way, I like the plan we came up with in Massachusetts. I wouldn't be surprised if some other states say, I like that. We are going to copy it. And I would be proud if they did. Some states will find they have got better answers than we came up with, I'm sure. And if they do, hats off to them. We'll all copy them. But I like what we came up with. But I'm going to let other states make their own choice and decide whether our plan is right for them or whether they have better ideas.
Additionally, during an October 21, 2007, Republican presidential debate, Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler asked Romney, "[W]e have an e-mailed question from Kendrick of Oakland, California, who says the health care plan you left in Massachusetts, which required people to get their own insurance, amounts to Hillary Care. You say it was the result of a Democratic legislature. I want to ask you: If a Democratic Congress placed such a plan on your desk in the Oval Office, would you sign it? And why was the plan good for Massachusetts and not good for the nation?" Romney again advocated allowing the states to "create their own plan":
ROMNEY: I'm very proud of what we did in Massachusetts, and I think it's a model that other states can adopt in some respects. ... For Democrats, they want to have government take it over. And I don't want to have the guys who did the cleanup at Katrina taking responsibility for health care in this country. ... But Hillary [Clinton] says the federal government's going to tell you what kind of insurance, and it's all government insurance. And I say no, let the states create their own plans, and instead of government insurance, private, market-based insurance. "
Additionally, while Ambinder wrote that "what Romney ... was able to do in Massachusetts -- even with caveats -- is pretty much the same as what Obama wants to do on a national level," he did not point out that Romney has reportedly criticized Obama's health care plan as "socialized medicine." Tumulty similarly did not note this fact when touting Romney as her "suggested nominee" who can "work pragmatically across party lines." The Associated Press reported on July 22, 2007, that Romney "attacked Obama's health care plan," and quoted him saying, "Barack Obama said we're going to have to have the government take over health care" and "The right answer is not a government takeover, it's not socialized medicine. It's not Hillarycare."
From Tumulty's February 3 Swampland post:
I've got an out-of-the-box suggestion that he might consider. My suggested nominee is a proven problem-solver on the health care issue, who has shown that he is willing to invest whatever political capital it takes to get the job done. Someone who has shown that, on this issue, he can work pragmatically across party lines. Someone who has partnered with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate health committee, on a plan. In fact, he's the only person in America who has ever put together and passed a universal health care program.
That man: Mitt Romney.
From Ambinder's February 3 post on his Atlantic blog:
President Obama could do worse. Romney has a bad reputation among Congressional Democrats, so I can't imagine they'd cotton to this. In fact, it's highly unlikely. But what Romney, in a bipartisan fashion, was able to do in Massachusetts -- even with caveats -- is pretty much the same as what Obama wants to do on a national level. Karen Tumulty notes that Romney is the only American who can claim the provision of universal health care as a resume line. Didn't help him in the GOP too much, but that's another discussion. If Obama wanted to bring Romney into the cabinet, he'd have to balance him by appointing a pro-choicer to a top HHS post because there are so many controversial, sexuality-related programs in that department that apportion money. The thinking here is that Romney would be the White House health care czar and that a Democrat -- Gov. Kitzhaber of Oregon, maybe -- would move over to Health and Human Services.