Both the Massachusetts law and the new federal law require individuals to purchase health insurance, a feature that is anathema to conservative philosophy. But Romney maintained there’s a key difference between his state’s reform and “ObamaCare”: The mandate in Massachusetts was aimed at preventing “free riders” from receiving health care without paying for it, while the federal mandate is an abuse of power, he said. By law, a hospital may not turn away a patient seeking emergency care.
Romney framed the state-level mandate as a requirement that people take “personal responsibility,” a phrase that often appeals to conservatives. But conservatives object to the government mandate at all levels, not just federal. And Obama’s reform is also aimed at addressing the free-rider problem. Romney also asserted that the Massachusetts reform did not include tax increases, while the federal plan does.
Romney is a top-tier contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, but if he is to win over a critical mass of the party’s conservative base, he needs to convince them that he is no longer the same man who governed Massachusetts for four years. So far, he’s not there. And it may not be possible. Were he to renounce the signature initiative of his time as governor, he would renew his image as a flip-flopper.