Romney Doesn’t Mention Obamacare Mandate in Debate; Campaign Says He Opposes a ‘Federal’ One

By Fred Lucas | October 4, 2012 | 12:46pm EDT

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the presidential debate at the University of Denver on Oct. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

( - During Wednesday night’s presidential debate, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney explained why wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare, he cited four reasons, including because it is “expensive,” it “cuts $716 billion” from Medicare, it includes an “unelected board” that could determine what kind of medical treatments people get, and it “killed jobs.”

He did not mention as one of the reasons he would like to repeal Obamacare the fact that if mandates that all Americans must purchase health insurance, a mandate that conservatives have argued is unconstitutional and that only survived a Supreme Court challenge earlier this year when Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals on the court and said the government had the authority to order people to buy things as long as it did so under the Constitution’s General Welfare Clause not the Commerce Clause.

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The Romney campaign told on Thursday that Romney does in fact oppose the Obamacare mandate.

“Governor Romney will repeal ObamaCare in its entirety and replace it — not with another massive federal bill that purports to solve all our problems from Washington, but with common-sense, patient-centered reforms suited to the challenges we face,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams told in a written statement. “He does not support a federal mandate.”

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed health-care legislation—popularly known as Romneycare—that did mandate that people within that states borders must buy a government-approved health insurance plan.

During Wednesday’s debate, moderator Jim Lehrer asked Romney, “You want the Affordable Care Act repealed. Why?”

“I sure do,” said Romney. “Well, in part, it comes, again, from my experience. You know, I was in New Hampshire. A woman came to me and she said, look, I can't afford insurance for myself or my son. I met a couple in Appleton, Wisconsin, and they said, we're thinking of dropping our insurance, we can't afford it. And the number of small businesses I've gone to that are saying they're dropping insurance because they can't afford it, the cost of health care is just prohibitive--and we've got to deal with cost.

“Unfortunately, when you look at Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office has said it will cost $2,500 a year more than traditional insurance,” said Romney. “So it's adding to cost. As a matter of fact, when the president ran for office, he said that by this year he would have brought down the cost of insurance for each family by $2,500 a family. Instead, it's gone up by that amount. So it's expensive. Expensive things hurt families. So, that's one reason I don't want it.

“Second reason,” Romney said,” it cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it. I want to put that money back in Medicare for our seniors.

“Number three,” said Romney, “it puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have. I don't like that idea.

“Fourth,” said Romney, “there was a survey done of small businesses across the country, said: What's been the effect of Obamacare on your hiring plans? Three-quarters of them said it makes us less likely to hire people. I just don't know how the president could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. It has killed jobs.

“And the best course for health care,” said Romney, “is to do what we did in my state: craft a plan at the state level that fits the needs of the state. Then let's focus on getting the costs down for people, rather than raising it with the $2,500 additional premium.”

Romney did not mention his opposition to the individual mandate in Obamacare or his support for the individual mandate in Romneycare.

In response to Romney, Obama made an argument in defense of his health-care plan.

“Number one, if you’ve got health insurance it doesn’t mean a government takeover,” said Obama. “You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor.

“But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around.  They can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits,” said Obama. “They have to let you keep your kid on your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. It also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.

“Number two,” said Obama, “if you don’t have health insurance, we’re essentially setting up a group plan that allows you to benefit from group rates that are typically 18 percent lower than if you’re out there trying to get insurance on the individual market.”

Obama later defended Obamacare by saying that Romneycare was the model for it.

“The irony is that we’ve seen this model work really well in Massachusetts, because Gov. Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state, to set up what is essentially the identical model,” Obama said.

Romney responded that he got a health care bill through an 87-percent Democratic legislature, and criticized Obama lack of bipartisanship in crafting his own health-care law.

“I like the way we did it in Massachusetts,” Romney said. “I like the fact that in my state we had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together. What you did instead was to push through a plan without a single Republican vote. As a matter of fact, when Massachusetts did something quite extraordinary--elected a Republican senator--to stop Obamacare, you pushed it through anyway.”

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