- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On my first day in office as Ohio attorney general, I authorized Ohio to join the multistate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. More than half of all the states are part of this lawsuit. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing the oral arguments in this very important case, and it ultimately will decide whether to protect our existing system of limited government or give Congress vast new regulatory powers.

The key issue in the lawsuit is the individual mandate - the provision of Obamacare that requires all individuals to purchase federally approved health insurance and the provision that Americans overwhelmingly oppose. While most Americans understand that the individual mandate tramples our liberty by giving the federal government the unprecedented authority to dictate our personal choices, what many Americans may not know is that Mitt Romney designed his own individual mandate in Massachusetts and encouraged President Obama to adopt a similar federal edict.

As governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney championed a state-run health care system that functions largely the same way as Obamacare. Both health care overhaul laws expand Medicaid rolls. Both health care laws tamper with the free market, causing higher health insurance premiums and doctor shortages. Most significantly, both laws include individual mandates.

In 2009, as the Democrats in Washington were preparing to push Obamacare through Congress, Mr. Romney wrote an op-ed for USA Today in which he boasted about his health care accomplishments. He encouraged Mr. Obama to follow his example in Massachusetts. In the column, Mr. Romney explained that punitive taxes are a good way to “encourage” people to purchase health insurance. At that time, he was proud of Romneycare, and he thought his health care law should serve as a template for Mr. Obama’s federal health care initiative.

Even beyond policy considerations, Romneycare was a horrible model to suggest for the federal government because the Constitution does not give Congress the power to impose an individual insurance mandate. Our federal government is one of important, but limited and defined, powers, and the mandate violates those constitutional constraints on federal authority - as I hope the Supreme Court soon will rule.

Romneycare is Mr. Romney’s biggest vulnerability in this campaign. On the stump, he has promised to repeal Obamacare and has tried to draw distinctions between his health care law and the president’s law. But the more Republican voters learn about Romneycare’s identical individual mandate, the more the more skeptical they will be about Mr. Romney’s current promises to repeal Obamacare. Obamacare, after all, was modeled on Romneycare, and Mr. Romney actively encouraged Democrats to adopt key provisions.

As much as Mr. Romney would prefer to conceal the truth about Romneycare, the reality is that his program has an appalling record in Massachusetts. Romneycare has dramatically increased the cost of health insurance premiums in the state. In fact, health insurance premiums are rising more sharply there than anywhere else in the country. Per capita health care spending in Massachusetts is 27 percent higher than the national average and the highest in the nation. At the same time that families’ health care costs are soaring, Massachusetts has been expanding its Medicaid rolls, creating additional problems for taxpayers.

Obamacare is, quite simply, the federal version of Romneycare. All of the problems that we have seen unfold in Massachusetts - doctor shortages, Medicaid expansion and escalating health insurance costs - are already starting to take place across the country as Obamacare is implemented.

In 2010, immediately after Democrats passed their health care overhaul law, Americans leapt into action, forming groups and organizations committed to repealing Obamacare on the grounds that it is an unprecedented abuse of government power.

The individual mandate, in particular, has caused a great deal of frustration because there is simply no constitutional basis for requiring Americans to purchase health insurance. Yet, despite conservatives’ strong opposition to the individual mandate, one of the candidates for the GOP nomination for president is the original architect of the individual mandate and many other aspects of Obamacare.

Beating Mr. Obama will be tough enough. Having a candidate without the ability to use the issue of Obamacare against him makes it even tougher. I recently announced my support for Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee for president because I believe repealing Obamacare should be our top priority next year. Unlike Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum has championed conservative solutions to health care. I’m confident that Mr. Santorum, once elected, would move swiftly to repeal Obamacare.

Former Sen. Mike DeWine is the Republican attorney general of Ohio.

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