Governor Deval Patrick will be talking up the Massachusetts health care law in Washington this weekend, but don't count on him convincing many fellow governors from cash-strapped states to follow the Bay State’s example.
Patrick arrived in the nation’s capitol this morning for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association amid fierce debate over the health care law that Congress passed last year. The House recently voted to defund the federal law, numerous federal lawsuits are pending, and governors across the country are wrestling with its implications for their own starved budgets.
While the White House hasn’t asked Patrick to be its official champion on health care, he said he’s happy to sing the praises of both the Massachusetts law and the federal law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“The national health care plan is based on the Massachusetts model, and rather than being a thing to fear, it’s a thing we’re proud of, and is widely supported by Massachusetts residents,” he said.
Patrick will face a grilling from Republicans on Tuesday at a House committee hearing packed with critics of what many in the GOP derisively call “Obamacare.” He will be the only Democratic governor on the panel; two Republican governors, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Gary R. Herbert of Utah, will also testify.
Patrick said that he doesn’t expect to win over Republicans, saying that “some of them are committed to not being convinced.” Representative Ed Markey, a Malden Democrat who sits on the committee, said Patrick will have no problems on the panel.
“I’m sure that there will be many Republican members who will be questioning him, but he has the answers that will make it clear that Massachusetts has no intention of going back to a time when people did not have health care coverage,” he said.
Edmund F. Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, doubts that Patrick will convince many in Washington that the Massachusetts law is a model for other states, particularly among his fellow governors.
“I think he will get a skeptical hearing from most of the governors, both Republican and Democrats, many of whom will have difficulty seeing how their particular states measure up with respect to Massachusetts and how the impact would be the same,” he said.
Patrick implemented the law, but it was Gov. Mitt Romney who signed the overhaul that he hammered out with Democratic leaders in the legislature. While Patrick has embraced the Massachusetts law, Romney has generally distanced himself from the effort since leaving office.
But responding to criticism from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who called the Massachusetts law “RomneyCare,” Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom defended the law and the former governor this week, saying that “Mitt Romney is proud of what he accomplished for Massachusetts in getting everyone covered.”
That, in turn, triggered a tongue-in-cheek compliment from Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, who thanked Romney for “apparently expressing support” for the health care law.
“Today, we now see that, for the time being at least, flip-flopping on his views of our great healthcare reform will not join his other Olympic-level flip flops,” he said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.