Romney Could Be In The Health Care Crosshairs At Debate

By Frannie Carr

Jan. 4, 2012


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, take the stage Tuesday at the Hotel Fort Des Moines to celebrate the former governor's showing in the Iowa caucuses. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Once his crowning achievement, health care reform has become Mitt Romney’s Achilles heel.
When Michele Bachmann suspended her Presidential bid on Wednesday, the GOP field lost its most vocal opponent to President Obama's health care reform. But Bachmann and her GOP rivals have also targeted Mitt Romney on health care. Since announcing his presidential candidacy, Romney has tried mightily to distinguish between what Republicans have branded as "Obamacare" and the landmark health care law he helped oversee as Massachusetts governor.

jonathan gruber
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber in the WGBH studios. (Edgar Herwick//WGBH)

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped craft both the Massachusetts and the national legislation, said they're the same bill. He called Romney's attempt to take credit for one while disavowing the other "disingenuous."

"This is a bill that he endorsed and signed five years ago," Gruber said. "Only once President Obama wisely decided that hey, this is good policy... suddenly, it’s a bad idea. I mean, how could that be anything but pure politics?"

With the New Hampshire primary one week and one state away, Romney is bound to face more questions on health care reform, especially in this coming weekend's debate. Should voters expect a clearer explanation? Again, Gruber doubted it:

"[Romney's] made this statement over and over again about it was good for Mass. but not for the country. But he never says why. And that’s because there is no 'why.' He’s just sort of hoping by asserting that, he can somehow shut down people's thought process," he said.

If he does manage to outlast his critics, get the GOP nod and win the election, Romney has said he’ll repeal the bill anyway.

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