Republican Presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney often fends off the attacks comparing the similarities between the plan he signed in Massachusetts in 2006 and ObamaCare by saying he took a federalist approach. The former Massachusetts Governor says his plan was done on a state level, where the central theme to both plans, the individual mandate, was a actually a conservative approach.
But in a July 2009 op-ed in USA Today Romney thought the President could learn a thing or two from the plan he signed into law in Massachusetts, including using the individual mandate as an incentive for people to buy insurance.
The op-ed no longer appears on the USA Today website but is archived on the Mitt Romney fan site "Mitt Romney Central" and is accessible on the former Governor's old website via the web archive.
Health care cannot be handled the same way as the stimulus and cap-and-trade bills. With those, the president stuck to the old style of lawmaking: He threw in every special favor imaginable, ground it up and crammed it through a partisan Democratic Congress. Health care is simply too important to the economy, to employment and to America's families to be larded up and rushed through on an artificial deadline. There's a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it.
Romney continues further down in the op-ed bringing up the individual mandate dreaded by conservatives.Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn't have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. 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. This doesn't cost the government a single dollar. Second, we helped pay for our new program by ending an old one — something government should do more often. The federal government sends an estimated $42 billion to hospitals that care for the poor: Use those funds instead to help the poor buy private insurance, as we did.
Update Although the original online version of the op-ed doesn't appear on USA Today's website, a version was archived in an obscure corner of the site for the print edition of the paper.