Decision 2012: Battle of the Health Care Contortionists

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Joe Raedle, Olivier Douliery / Getty Images

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

Both major party candidates running for President, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, say America faces a clear choice in November. But good luck figuring out all the fine print, especially when it comes to their positions on health care reform.

Here are their stated positions on one topic, the idea of imposing an individual mandate, which requires all citizens to buy health insurance:

Barack Obama, who ran for President in 2008 by promising to oppose an individual mandate, is running in 2012 on his success in passing the individual mandate in to law. He insisted the mandate penalty was not a tax until his lawyer argued before the Supreme Court that it was a tax.

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Mitt Romney, who ran for President in 2008 describing the individual mandate he passed in Massachusetts as a model for the rest of the nation, is running in 2012 by promising to dismantle the individual mandate. He believes Obama’s healthcare reforms will burden American with economy-killing tax increases, though Romney does not believe that the mandate itself constitutes a tax.

Those sentences are confusing. So let’s try again. This time, in the form of a hypothetical Q&A:

What do you think about an individual mandate?

Obama: I opposed it in 2008, but started supporting it in 2009. Now I hope the thing I ran against to get elected will be my historical legacy as president.

Romney: I supported it in Massachusetts, and called the state reforms a model for the nation in 2007 and 2008. But now I hope to dismantle the federal version of my state-level success.

Is the penalty for not following the individual mandate a tax? 

Obama: It is not a tax, unless I am arguing my case before the Supreme Court. Then, it is a tax, and the court agreed with me, and I am happy about this.

Romney: It is not a tax, even though my own party leadership now claims it is a tax. But I still want to dismantle Obama’s health care reforms because it raises taxes.

(MORE: How the Supreme Court’s Medicaid Ruling Endangers Universal Coverage)

Still confused? Let me describe it another way, as a set of talking points:

Obama Talking Points

–Individual mandate was bad in 2008, good in 2009.
–Penalty for not following mandate was not a tax in 2009, but is a tax in 2011.

Romney Talking Points

–Individual mandate was good in 2008, but became bad after 2009.
–Penalty for not following the mandate was not a tax then, even though all my Republican colleagues now call it a tax. I am consistent!
–But there are other parts of ObamaCare that increase taxes, and for this reason even the non-tax parts must be stopped.

If this is still confusing, I can’t really help you. Both candidates have tied themselves in knots standing on principal while bending to political necessity. In the case of Obama, the necessities were beating Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary, passing an historic health care reform through Congress and winning an argument at the Supreme Court. In the case of Romney, the necessities were solving the problem of the uninsured in Massachusetts, trying to win the 2008 Republican nomination, and recreating himself as the anti-Obama in 2012.*

Though the two men take a similar approach to political expediency, that does not mean that they support similar health care policies at the moment. So let us not let the tactical absurdity cloud the real impacts:

If you elect Barack Obama, there is a solid chance his health care reforms of 2010 will become the accepted law of the land. That means lots of things, including insurance reforms, millions more with insurance, a major expansion of Medicaid in most states, and the possibility that if you refuse to buy insurance you will see your tax refund withheld. It also will likely put some long term pressure on federal budgets, unless health care costs rise slower than expected.

(MORE: Health Care Issue May Fade Fast for Romney)

If you elect Mitt Romney, there is a solid chance that some or all of Barack Obama’s health care reforms will be repealed. That will likely mean relatively less federal spending on Medicaid, which helps provide medical coverage to the poor. It will also probably means less long term pressure on the deficit, and millions more Americans without health insurance. Depending on how the repeal goes, this could also mean a loss of some of the insurance reforms.

But then even these positions are not set in stone. Unless you go third party, you will be pulling the lever for a candidate with a demonstrated ability to shift his rhetoric and policy positions to meet the political moment. And whoever wins is almost certain to face the task of governing with a squabbling Congress in an impatient country. All campaign promises are subject to change.

*Apologies for the asterisk, but there some fine print here. Romney argues that he never argued for a federal one-size-fits-all health care reform plan. In 2007 and 2008, he was a big supporter of using the mandate model on a state-by-state approach, but not as a federal level. But it is also true that in 2009, he appeared on Meet The Press and other shows to offer support for federal solutions that adopted the individual mandate, including the so-called Wyden-Bennett bill. See this video at 6:20.
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Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

Please read and tell reader about your thought.


the recent Supreme Court ruling, Governor Bobby Jindal still

refuses to implement the Affordable Care Act in Louisiana," said

Adrienne Parks, the MoveOn official starting the petition drive. "This

has been deemed the law of the land, but it appears that Gov. Jindal

would prefer many people in his state to remain without necessary health

care, rather than damage his political chances. My husband and I were

nearly bankrupted because of my husband's recent heart attack. We need

Obamacare in Louisiana, and we need it now."


The Health Care act passed by the last Congress, blessed by the Supreme Court stands. It's the confrontational 

Terrifying Errant Activist(TEA) party who are leading the charge to dismantle it. Here's why it's a great act:

Under the health care law, your existing guaranteed Medicare-covered benefits won’t be reduced or taken away. Neither will your ability to choose your own doctor.Nearly 4 million people with Medicare received cost relief during the law’s first year. If you had Medicare prescription drug coverage and had to pay for your drugs in the coverage gap known as the “donut hole,” you received a one-time, tax free $250 rebate from Medicare to help pay for your prescriptions.If you have high prescription drug costs that put you in the donut hole, you now get a 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs while you’re in the donut hole. Between today and 2020, you’ll get continuous Medicare coverage for your prescription drugs. The donut hole will be closed completely by 2020.Medicare covers certain preventive services without charging you the Part B coinsurance or deductible. You will also be offered a free annual wellness exam.The life of the Medicare Trust Fund will be extended as a result of reducing waste, fraud and abuse, and slowing cost growth in Medicare, which will provide you with future cost savings on your premiums and coinsurance.Health plans can't cancel  coverage once you get sick -- a practice known as "rescission" -- unless you committed fraud when you applied for coverage.Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage (this will apply to adults in 2014).

Insurers will have to provide rebates to consumers if they spend less than 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care.

If you are older than 65, the law is narrowing a gap in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan known as the "doughnut hole." That's when seniors who have paid a certain initial amount in prescription costs have to pay for all of their drug costs until they spend a total of $4,700 for the year. Then the plan coverage begins again. That coverage gap will be closed entirely by 2020. Seniors will still be responsible for 25 percent of their prescription drug costs.

The law also has expanded Medicare's coverage of preventive services, such as screenings for colon, prostate and breast cancer, which are now free to beneficiaries. Medicare will also pay for an annual wellness visit to the doctor.

If you are covered under a private Medicare Advantage plan, however, the law is cutting payments to some of those plans, and critics say that could mean the private plans may not offer many extra benefits.TEA-Republicans are against all this!

Leavane Cox
Leavane Cox

One Ironic fact about Romney's Stance on Obamacare

When Romney was the Massachusetts Governor in the


his universal health care policy was almost the same as Obamacare, but

today-07-01-2012- he hypocritically opposes Obamacare. 

Romney should remember what he wrote in an article on

USA Today "using tax penalties, as we

did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’

to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical

costs on to others.”

Moreover during his single term as governor,

Mitt Romney raised taxes 5 percent in Massachusetts, the state already

known as "Taxachusetts.", : Do

The Right Thing, by Mike Huckabee, p. 14

, Nov 18, 2008.

He also claimed " We


fees $240 million,...", 2008

Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley  ,  Jan 30, 2008 


Why didn't Mr. Romney remember his past record during this presidential

campaign? Is it a "win-win strategy" for Romney? Perhaps he just says

what people want to hear and opposes what people hate - taxation.


This morning, July 2, 2012 Romney


insurance mandate not a tax, " Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said

the presumptive Republican

presidential nominee agrees with the Obama administration’s insistence

that the “shared responsibility payment,” as it is called in the

Affordable Care Act, should be described as a penalty, or a fee, or a

fine -- but not a tax," 

Today, July 04, 2012, Romney seems

to contradict his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom's

remark that President

Obama was imposing a tax through

his insurance mandate.  Obama's campaign

commented:  “First, he threw his top aide

Eric Fehrnstrom under the bus by

changing his campaign’s position,” and “Second, he contradicted himself

by saying his own

Massachusetts mandate wasn’t a tax.”, the campaign


Sometimes a politician's

statement is to clarify a stance or to change a view point similar to

how a chameleon changes color. It's too difficult to know.


Leavane Cox,

No matter how you slice it, no matter how politicians parse their statements, ObamaCare is one huge, honking TAX upon the middle class. A TAX that Barack Obama swore he would never impose.


Leavane Cox,

Finally, someone gets it. I wanted to smack the whole Romney bunch across their thick heads when I heard that aide shoot of his mouth.

I was hammering Obama on the TAX five minutes after the Roberts' ruling came down only to hear that these idiots were flying cover for Obama and his gang of TAX amp; SPENDERS. 


 Blah, blah, blah.  It doesn't matter who said what.  The 111th Congress by dirty dealing, obfuscation and ignorance, not to mention BLATANT partisanship, passed this nightmare TAX,  which is a penalty on our very EXISTENCE  in this Country.  It needs to be repealed,  spirited away, disappeared, deleted, escaped, killed, canceled, gotten rid of, by whatever means necessary to do so.

It will not do what it has been promised to will not make healthcare affordable, in any way... not when it increases our already overabundant bureaucracy exponentially.   No way, no how.

Whether Mitt Romney implemented it in Massachusetts, whether it was a Conservative idea before the Left shoved it down our throats, I DON'T CARE!!!  Let's get rid of it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.


Oh right, kazzer -- making you pay for the health care you need is a penalty on your existence! So you're entitled to have others pay for what you need.  Now there's a lover of freedom -- for himself.  Freedom to steal health care money from other people.  What a man!


This is how the occupants of the fever swamps of the left celebrate Independence Day. 

I would have posted a sample but the comments of these cretins are too vile to repeat.


A happy Independence Day to all the denizens of Swampland! 2012 is unique in that we will have a chance of assuring that independence on November 6th. Vote as though your liberty counts on it. It does!


Absolutely right!  And since it does, vote for Obama, the only candidate who tries to do right by all the people, not just the wealthy.



If Obama ever did right by anyone it was purely a coincidence. Barack Obama is of Barack Obama, by Barack Obama and for Barack Obama. 


A happy 4th of July to you too. It's in the high 90's here again today. Yesterday afternoon we had 2/3s of an inch of rain in 20 minutes. Then it turned into a sauna again. The storm hit while i was driving to work. A lightening bolt struck about 20-25 feet from my car. That was an interesting experience.



Perhaps it was a sign, sacredh. A Paul on the road to Damascus moment. Glad you came through okay.


I work on the river so I'm used to seeing lightning, but that was the closest I've ever been to a strike. It shook the car and I had an after image for a few seconds, but that was all. I can't wait to get to work today. The 4th is always our busiest day of the year. It's going to be skin, skin and more skin. Jesus, I LOVE my job. Mix alcohol and really hot weather and I'm going to spend half of my day warning women to stop flashing everyone. They seldom listen, but it's my duty to protect the moral values of the community. Of course I can't stand up from my cart when i warn them, but I must protect the public.


groovecity, you seem to be in a combative mood. Upset about Roberts being reasonable for once? I don't pledge my allegience to Obama. I disagree with him on many things.


Anything to avoid conservatism? How about it's a philosophy that I don't agree with? Do you avoid liberalism so that you can remain tight with the Tea Party and be one of the cool Tea Partiers? See how ridiculous that sounds?


You're a conservative because you're a conservative. I'm a liberal because that's what I believe.


As for being a cool kid, I'm old enough to be a grandfather. As further evidence that I'm not cool, I've never been on facebook, don't know how to or have any interest in tweeting. There's also the fact that I don't go along with what other liberals believe if it isn't what I believe. I never miss an opportunity to defend the death penalty.


Whether it 15 or 30 million who are not insured, or under insured, why do we have to bankrupt the nation to assure that they have insurance coverage?  Can the federal government run any program without red ink?  Isn't it more important that we get our fiscal house in order, and then we can actually see what can be afforded to help those who don't have health insurance?  Less coverage for those who have, so that those who don't have, or have little, will have more is not a solution.  It simply creates more problems.  And those who have made this new law, made sure it did not apply to them, right?


Obama ran against the individual mandate because he was against the individual mandate.  It was included because the Republicans approved of the individual mandate to try to compromise, and then, guess, what, the Republicans were against the individual mandate.  No wonder Obama is such a divisive figure.

John Werneken
John Werneken

The candidates are models of principle and consistency on the health care law, as compared to the Chief Justice on the same subject. I can only conclude that the honorable Chief was determined that an election rather than a court should resolve it, for that is where we are with this. Too bad the court decision LACKS the Bush vs. Gore asterisk, "do not use as a precedent".

After all almost any action can be described exactly as a corresponding failure to NOT do some other thing, and vice versa; a penalty has all the characteristics of a tax, plus it is "punitive"; a tax has all the affects and aspects of a penalty, except it is NOT "punitive". After this, any regulatory act OR tax is likely to be litigated.

Maybe it will solve under-employment and unemployment, at least for lawyers...


The King has buried the next generation in taxes


    Democrats do not have what it takes to be AMERICAN.  They have chosen to be democrats not AMERICANS.  That is why they need to caucus with the Communist Party USA for their ideas and steal the ones Republicans come up with and rejected. They have none.

      They are a criminal organization that fiends for power and tax payer dollars who cannot win elections on merit or honesty. They vainglorious criminal frauds who believe they are entitled to rule and dictate how we AMERICANS should live our lives.

They have proven themselves unqualified, unfit and unworthy of running this Country and need to be voted out of existence for the their lies, deceit and betrayal.

    It time to put these con artists who lie about caring about (fill in the blank) in their place and laugh at their desperate attempt to paint Republicans as not caring about (fill in the blank).  Especially when it is already a proven fact that Republicans/Conservatives are more giving of their time and money to (fill in the blank). That goes especially for the lying fat head ED on the democrats hate and propaganda network.


What the h---  is "fiending" for power?


You are intelligent, coherent, thoughtful, and make many cogent arguments. Please tell us more. 


Is Obamacare 'affordable' in these days of harrowing economic recession? Is the purse of Americans so elastic as to give medical aid to Tom, Dick and Harry?


There is no rush for Romney to take obama apart a piece at the time when the time comes. Obama has made such a mess it will be hard for Romney to get it all in before the election.


Let's hear what Willard has to say about Romneycare in the debates.  There are videos all over the tubes of Rmoney embracing Romneycare and the individual mandate.


There is a big difference in RomneyCare and ObamaCare. RomenyCare was voted on and passed by the people in the state. ObamaCare was passed in a backroom deal with bribes. My wish is that Romney repeals ObamaCare and then turns it over to each state to pass their own RomneyCare-style health plan. The dims like to say it works in MA so there is no way they could not go along with each state coming up with their own plan.


Obama has succeeded in  intimidating Roberts on his Obamacare.

He has already succeeded in Balkanizing our great Nation into issue based factions - Black vs Caucasians,

poor vs rich,

women vs men,

unions vs non-unionized workers,

public vs private sector,

Gays vs Heterosexuals,

Workers vs Employers/Corporations,......

He may very well succeed in his re-election bid - in spite of  permanently high unemployment, and economy still in the toilet.

If he does get re-elected, he will destroy the Democrat party for a long long time.


His signature achievement is going to strike back and bite the Dems.

This silly argument about TAX / PENALTY is much ado about nothing.

Those Americans who can afford to pay for insurance but choose not to buy it are

not brain washed dummies.

They will figure out ways to game the system.

Also, many of them are uninsured NOT because they are FREE-RIDERS

(Pelosi's term). They tend to be healthy, young and pay CASH

for their Medical needs.

Cost of the care they buy with CASH is still a

lot cheaper than monthly premiums.

Feds are NOT going to get much in PENALTY/TAX from these Americans to make the care cheaper for others.

Yes, they can see their financial life ruined if catastrophic illness strikes them (Doctors/Hospitals will go after their personal assets  force them into bancruptcies).

These Americans are still not a liability to the Government!

Those people who lost their employers insurance plans, and the poor/illegals who are currently flooding the Emergency Rooms will be enrolled into Government Exchanges or given tax credits to  buy private insurance.

There is nothing in the Obamacare to lower the costs of healthcare.

Insurers will keep raising premiums because now they have to cover 26 year old CHILD on parents' policies and they are forced to cover people with pre-existing conditions, AND women will be given FREE contraceptives......


There are many trickeries  in the bill to disincentivise small business to drop the insurance coverage for their employees.

Many of those newly uninsured will flock to the Government run Exchanges (single payer entity?) rather than big bad private insurers. (I don't understand why the private insurers thought Obama is delivering them many more subscribers!)

American Media has kept people in the dark about Obamacare's true effects.

On January 1, 2014, when they wake up, Americans will find out that Obamacare is not only NOT going to lower the cost of care, many millions will remain uninsured.

Added Bonus? In stead of the big bad Insurer, there will be DMV like HHS standing between Americans and their Doctors.

Public school indoctrinated fools think a Health COVERAGE is the same as HealthCARE.

People concerned about privacy rights will find out how much intrusive powers IRS wields and knows about them. IRS talking to HHS/Social Security, HHS talking to your Doctors,....

Freedom and Choice loving Americans will find out how much regulating powers HHS has been given in Obamacare.

HHS doesn't have to go back to the Congress for approval.

Those people who ridiculed Sarah Palin about the Death Panels and willfully turned deaf ear to Obama's own sermon about "quality of life" are in for a shock when it actually happens.

Obama himself told a concerned lady about her 100 year old Grandma's heart condition, that at some point you have to make decision about quality of life.

That decision will be made for your Grandma by a HHS bureaucrat.

If that's not a Death Panel, define one.

We fought the British on Tea TAX.

We will be adopting the Briton's NHS style rationing of care and gladly pay the Healthcare TAX?

Oh, What a Country!