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ANN ARBOR, Mich. Mitt Romney this afternoon tried to rebut conservative criticisms of his Massachusetts health care law as he called for abolishing President Obama’s national plan and replacing it with a new, more state-based reform of the US health care system.
In his first and perhaps most significant policy speech of his budding presidential campaign, he gave the strongest defense to date of his signature Massachusetts health care plan.
“A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake, and walk away from it,” Romney said. “And I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that, that would be good for me politically. But there’s only one problem with that: it wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believed was right for the people of my state.”
At the same time, he harshly criticized the current health care plan spearheaded by Obama and passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress last year and said he would repeal it and replace it with his own plan.
“If I’m the nominee on the Republican side of the aisle and I debate President Obama, this is what we’re going to be talking about,” said Romney, who has yet to publicly proclaim that he will seek the GOP nomination.
His five-point proposal outlined in a PowerPoint presentation has an over-arching goal of giving states more power in the health coverage arena. He would give states block grants for Medicaid, for example, and allow them to craft their own coverage plans.
Romney also proposed offering a tax deduction to those who buy their own health insurance on the open market, just as those who buy it through their employers can now have their health costs taken out before taxes. His plan would also allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines.
A Romney adviser said the plan would not add to the deficit or raise taxes, but the former governor has not yet detailed how much the tax deduction would cost and exactly how that would be offset.
Romney’s plan also includes malpractice reform, capping damages in lawsuits and giving grants to states to come up with alternate ways to resolve legal disputes.
His plan would still ensure that some people with preexisting conditions aren’t refused access to coverage, one of the most popular aspects of the Obama plan. But Romney said that that requirement would apply to those who have already had insurance for an undefined amount of time which could, in essence, still allow insurers to deny coverage.
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.