Secret emails show Romney’s approval of health mandate

By Nicholas Wapshott
June 8, 2012

If the U.S. Supreme Court decides later this month that President Obama’s healthcare plan is unconstitutional, most Republicans will be rejoicing. But none more so than Mitt Romney, who has made revoking the Affordable Care Act a principal plank of his platform. The Court will have saved him from having to explain an embarrassing batch of recently discovered confidential emails from the time he was governor of Massachusetts.

What opponents of the law that mandates every American buy private health insurance call “Obamacare” should more properly be called “Romneycare,” as the scheme Romney introduced in Massachusetts in 2006 is nearly identical to the one Obama introduced in 2010. Indeed, Romney’s plan is still in place and working well, and there is no groundswell in Massachusetts to abandon it. The president’s people, when drawing up their healthcare scheme, drew heavily on Romney’s experience. The fact that Senator Edward Kennedy approved of Romneycare and even agreed to be photographed with the governor when it passed into law gave the Obama camp an added incentive to follow in Romney’s footsteps.

To add to the ideological confusion surrounding Obama’s plan, Romney’s health scheme was inspired by Stuart M. Butler of the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. In the 1989 Heritage document “A National Health System for America,” Butler proposed that “every resident of the U.S. must, by law, be enrolled in an adequate health care plan to cover major health care costs.”

“Americans with sufficient means would no longer be able to be ‘free riders’ on society by avoiding sensible health insurance expenditures and relying on others to pay for care in an emergency or in retirement,” Butler wrote. “All households would be required to protect themselves from major medical costs by purchasing health insurance … The principle of mandatory family protection is central to a universal health care system in America.” If a family failed to enroll, “a fine might be imposed.”

The emails, which have just come to light after a public-records request by Wall Street Journal reporter Mark Maremont, show that Romney borrowed extensively from Butler’s recommendations, though the messages will confirm to conservatives and libertarians that Romney has little sympathy with their cause. “Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian,” Romney wrote in a 2006 article for a Journal op-ed he penned himself. The secret emails show Romney deleted the following line, perhaps for fear of offending the outliers in his party: “An uninsured libertarian might counter that he could refuse the free care, but under law, that is impossible – and inhumane.”

Romney was proud of his healthcare reforms, forged by working closely with and compromising with Democratic leaders in Massachusetts, and he used to herald them as the central feature of his legacy. “Quite a day!” he wrote to his finance secretary, Thomas Trimarco, on Apr. 12, 2006, when he signed the changes into law. “You have made a huge difference, for me and for hundreds of thousands of people who will have healthier and happier lives.” As a further slap to his conservative and libertarian base, the emails show how Romney was prepared to name and shame private companies that did not provide adequate health insurance for employees.

So, how do the new revelations tally with what Romney says today about Obama’s healthcare mandate? Now, he thinks “the transformation in American health care set in motion by Obamacare will take us in precisely the wrong direction … In place of Obamacare, Mitt will pursue policies that give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens.” So what Romney thought was good enough for Massachusetts just six years ago he deems not good enough – or perhaps too good – for the rest of the nation today.

So, is Romney a flip-flopper or a hypocrite? Does he still think the Massachusetts plan has led to “healthier and happier lives”? Or does he now regret mandating that every citizen of his state buy health insurance? If the Supreme Court strikes down Obama’s universal healthcare laws, we may never find out.

Illustration by Elsa Jenna


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I see a number of Romney supporters here….making themselves look foolish again. So, being that the President made a good plan, RomneyCare, into a national plan, this is bad. But because Mass. is but a state, this plan is ok?

You people are so full of it. You have excuses for everything.

Seems to me that any form of legislation, any form of governance, any plan, etc. that comes from a Democrat or a black President is considered illegitimate by anyone calling themselves a Republican.

You people love to rule, but you govern like crap.

Posted by krimsonpage | Report as abusive

There are 2 different issues at play here, as krimsonpage correctly points out. There is the question of whether or not the federal government has the Constitutional right to mandate the requirement that people buy insurance, and there is the totally separate question of whether or not the plan is a good plan.

What the Supremes decide should not be seen as a judgment on the plan itself. That’s not what they’re deliberating on, though it’s to be expected that the Republicans will present it as a thumbs down judgment on the plan. Its dishonest, but that’s what they do.

But is it a good plan? This is what makes Romney look so foolishly hypocritical. Clearly he thinks it’s a good plan for at least Massachusetts. But if good for Massachusetts, why not other states? Romney has also been quoted as saying that it would serve as a good national plan as well. This is to be expected. A governor who comes up with a good idea likes the world to know that the idea is theirs and that everyone should embrace it.

Also, the people who worked on the plan with Romney thought it would be a good national plan, and so they worked with the Obama Administration in designing it.

Furthermore, it was originally conceived by Stuart M. Butler of the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative think tank and the concept was designed as a national healthcare plan, not just for the state of Massachusetts.

There’s really no wiggle room for Romney on this. He is being dishonest and hypocritical on this issue. The only way Romney could prove otherwise, prove that he hasn’t flip flopped on this issue, that his healthcare plan is only appropriate for Massachusetts, then he’d have to be able to show us quotes and video tape of him making such statements, because if he really felt that way, that would be an obvious thing for a governor to say. Instead, he said the following: “If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.”

Perhaps even more disturbing than Romney’s dishonest hypocrisy on this issue, and others, is how so many Americans, mostly on the right, are more upset about the fallacy that Obama wasn’t born in the US than they are about Romney’s habitual dishonesty. At an alarming rate, people on the right increasingly base what they believe on whether or not it serves to further the rightwing agenda, and not whether it’s true or not. Promoting the power and influence of rightwing leaders is more important to them than the actual agenda itself, which clearly is not well understood.

I believe there is something afoot that will prove to be the biggest threat to our Republic since the Civil War. Money is firmly in control and it’s being well-utilized to shape our thinking on political matters like never before. A one party state not unlike Russia is a likely eventuality. It will continue to be okay to disagree with the right, provided you don’t try to do anything about it. Then you’ll be labeled a terrorist and will be shut down. Will this plutocratic coup prove to be democracy’s undoing? How can it not?

Posted by flashrooster | Report as abusive