- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2007

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney yesterday proposed a state-by-state approach to health care, saying the plan he enacted as governor was right for Massachusetts but not necessarily for the rest of the country.

Mr. Romney, who served one term as Massachusetts governor, said the federal government should free states up to experiment and try to achieve broader health care coverage, but he rejected imposing Massachusetts-style mandates on the rest of the country.

“A one-size-fits-all national health care system is bound to fail. It ignores the sharp difference between states and it relies on Washington bureaucracy to manage,” Mr. Romney said. “I don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system.”

He delivered a slideshow presentation to the Florida Medical Association yesterday laying out his plan, which would pressure states to expand coverage and increase affordability by dropping regulations and mandates, redirect federal funding away from free emergency treatment and toward helping low-income buyers purchase their own insurance, and impose malpractice caps to try to contain costs.

Mr. Romney’s Massachusetts plan mandated that every person be covered — through a government plan if they qualify, or through insurance they purchase through their job or on their own.

He is now trying to walk a tight line of defending that plan as a conservative solution, while at the same time acknowledging it goes too far for many conservatives, who make up the bulk of Republican primary voters.

The Democratic National Committee accused Mr. Romney of flip-flopping on his own Massachusetts plan, while former Sen. John Edwards said Mr. Romney’s new proposal fails because he refuses to butt heads with insurance and drug companies that Mr. Edwards thinks force higher prices onto consumers.

“Mitt Romney’s cure is worse than the disease,” said Mr. Edwards, the Democrat who led the pack of presidential candidates in putting forward a comprehensive health care solution earlier this year.

Republicans have been slower to propose health care solutions than Democrats, though Mr. Romney’s chief competition, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, announced the outlines of a plan earlier this summer. Yesterday his campaign said Mr. Romney’s legacy in Massachusetts should worry voters.

“Mitt Romney’s legacy is the creation of a multi-billion dollar government health bureaucracy that punishes employers and insists middle income individuals either purchase health insurance or pay for their own health care. The former is a mandate, the latter is a tax, and neither one is free-market,” said Dr. Scott Atlas, an advisor to Mr. Giuliani’s campaign.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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