Though he may have tried to run from his record during the campaign, Mr. Romney does have a well-known, well-documented public record… he served four years as Governor of Massachusetts. And during that time, his single greatest legislative achievement was the passage of of universal health care reform.
As crazy as it sounds after 2012, historic health care reform is Mitt Romney’s legacy as a public servant. The state of Massachusetts still operates by the provisions he signed into law, and though not perfect, most Bay Staters would never go back to a time before universal coverage. Regardless of their opinion of Romney, they definitely like their Romneycare.
Of course we all know the next chapter of the story… President Obama, seeking to make significant progress for the nation, takes Romneycare as a blueprint to craft Obamacare. Though the bill passed without a single Republican vote (unless you count the “vote” of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts to uphold the law after its 2012 challenge), it is truly some of the most bi-partisan legislation we have in recent memory. The provisions of Obamacare were born, tested and tried via Romneycare.
Listen to him defend his universal health care plan with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. I Had to transcribe my favorite part here…
Cavuto: “Let me step back from this Governor, if you don’t mind. When people are polled on this issue of universal healthcare coverage, a Fox Poll that we did… 2 out of 3 folks say ‘don’t want it, don’t see the need for it.’ What do you say about that?
Romney: “Well what they don’t recognize is they’ve already got it, and that’s the big surprise. Everybody in this country does get free health care. If people get sick… they go to the hospital and they get treated. And everybody else pays the cost of those individuals if they don’t have health insurance… So we have universal health care. For people that can afford to pay, it’s time for them to step up to the plate.”
Now that it’s 2013 and the President is officially a 2nd termer, the opportunity has been born for us as a nation to have an adult conversation regarding national health care reform. Both the President and Governor Romney are men that now have more in common than they ever had during the campaign. They are both powerful, influential people, both public servants, and both concerned about their legacy. After any election, win or lose, there is a critical window of time that things can actually “get done”. As Steve Leblanc of the AP and Huffington Post wrote today, states are looking to Massachusetts for leadership on how to implement Obamacare. That leadership should include Mitt Romney.
Of course many Democrats will rightly point out that Romney signed the legislation, but then chose not to run for a second term. That left much of the shepherding of “Romneycare” to the states next Governor, Deval Patrick. As a faithful Democrat, he and the Massachusetts legislature have worked hard to ensure that the law lived up to its goals of providing access to insurance for all Bay-Staters. The Boston Globe did a comprehensive review of Romneycare in 2011, saying that it has been (and continues to be successful in achieving those goals. In 2006, some 500,000 Massachusetts residents did not have health insurance. Today, that number hovers around 120,000 and continues to drop as more tweaks are put in place. Romneycare, though not perfect, is an example of what government can actually DO to improve people’s lives.
As the nation begins a rapid implementation of Obamacare, we still remain deeply, (some might say tragically) divided on what health care reform means for the country. Democratic Governors and legislators are going full-steam ahead by embracing the new provisions, while Repbulican strongholds are building a fort against them even if it defies logic and reasoning to do so. As Texas Governor Rick Perry, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and others toy with the lives of millions in need of access to affordable care, it may be of benefit to have a prominent Republican voice that can attest to the good that health care reform can do. Sure, Mr. Romney’s status was lessened as being the losing candidate, but that doesn’t erase what he did for the Bay State. If anything, this could also be an opportunity for the former Governor to restore his reputation and find new purpose in the public debate.
The term “Obamacare” was originally drummed up by the Right-Wing media to distort and shame the President’s efforts for health reform. But in the 2012 campaign, President Obama turned around saying “I like Obamacare, because I actually DO care!”. Despite what he may have said in 2012, the same actually holds true for Mitt Romney. It’s why he chose to put the universal symbol for medicine into his official portrait as Governor of Massachusetts… the portrait that will align the walls of the Massachusetts State House for all forseen time. But now, in this time, our nation’s health care reform is in need of advocates from BOTH parties. We’ve got the Democrats, and now we are looking to Republican leaders who can break with the tight- lipped opposition, and defend the importance of health care. After all, our health can never truly be a party issue.
It’s called “Romneycare” because, at least this writer believes, Romney does care.