The state of Massachusetts is making sure former Governor Mitt Romney can't run away from the universal health care program he signed into law, and his opponents can't misrepresent it.
The Health Connector and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which are charged with implementing the 2006 legislation, sent out an e-mail Friday containing a Top 10 list of facts about the measure.
One specifically describes the law Romney enacted as the model for the federal universal health care program signed into law by President Obama last year.
It has become the subject of national debate, as Republicans have derided what they term "Obamacare," while Democrats have noted it was modeled on "Romneycare."
The connection is particularly sensitive for Romney, a prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidate, since conservatives whose support he will need in his party's primaries have generally opposed both laws.
Romney has tried to rebuff the criticism by arguing that states should be free to enact their own plans, not be subjected to a single measure imposed by the federal government.
Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat who is planning to be a surrogate campaigner during Obama's re-election campaign next year, has publicly highlighted the similarities in the measures. Now his administration is echoing the message.
"As much is being written about our landmark 2006 Massachusetts health reform legislation and implementation, we want to make sure you have all the pertinent facts at your disposal," Connector spokesman Dick Powers said in the e-mail.
The No. 6 point says flatly: "Massachusetts health reform provided the model for national reform. Like Massachusetts, the new national law calls for the formation of (health insurance) Exchanges. The Health Connector’s tiering system, which offers consumers a choice of gold, silver or bronze coverage, was also adopted in a slightly expanded way. Like Massachusetts,the national law sets minimum coverage standards and will include benefits like elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions. A number of the benefits in the Massachusetts law are enhanced under national reform, most notably extension of subsidy assistance for individuals from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, extension of federally-subsidized coverage to legal immigrants and extension of insurance protections to self-funded private coverage."
Item No. 7 also touches another hot-button topic: the requirement in the law Romney signed that provides tax penalties for residents who are capable of buying insurance but fail to do so.
"The individual mandate has worked fairly and effectively to expand coverage in Massachusetts," says the fact sheet. "Some 97 percent of the taxpayers are complying with new health reform filing requirements. Furthermore, the Health Connector’s appeals process, which rules on hardship exceptions, has been fair to taxpayers, with a 60-percent approval rate for those who follow through with an appeal."
Powers said the poster was produced in-house, at no additional cost to the taxpayers. The two photos used, he said, came from annual progress reports about the state law.
"It wasn't meant to tweak anyone," said Powers. "One of the frustrating things about
sitting here is watching people on both the left and the right twist information to suit their ideological agenda. With bloggers taking a more active role, it's amazing how quickly bad information can and does spread. This is just our attempt to get the facts out there so the media and eventually their readers and listeners will have the correct facts. With federal reform under the microscope and a presidential election on the horizon, it's logical to assume that more eyes will be cast on what we're doing here."
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.