Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who designed and continues to defend the state-based health care overhaul that served as the model for ObamaCare, a law he says he opposes, has promised that he would provide states, businesses, and individuals relief from President Obama's health care overhaul on day one of his presidency by issuing waivers to all 50 states. After all, even under a president committed to repeal, ditching the legislation will take some time.
But, it turns out, so would the waiver process Romney proposes. The way the legislation is written, the waivers Romney is referring to don't take effect until 2017. At best, then, they'd likely end up tied up in lawsuits that could take a while to be resolved by the court system.
The more likely scenario, though, is that the waivers don't really work like Romney thinks they do. Here's an exchange Romney had with Philip Klein of The Washington Examiner after Klein asked what immediate relief from the law Romney would offer given that the waivers don't kick in until 2017:
ROMNEY: Well, I will certainly pursue repeal, and that’s something which will occur if we have a Republican House and a Republican Senate, my guess is it could be done pretty close to day one. If that’s not the case, and I have to go through the waiver process, we will do our best. Our lawyers think that providing a state a waiver that we will be able to conform with the law and that the state would be able to opt out of the system, but if a lawsuit ensues, and it takes months to sort it out, well during that time hopefully we will have the bill repealed. I think people recognize that if I’m elected President of the United States, that we are not going to have Obamacare with its full panoply of benefits and costs. The American people don’t want it. I don’t want it. And we’ll repeal it. And if the waiver process is able to successfully stop it in its tracks, as we think it will, great. It doesn’t stop everything of course. Some elements go on. The tax being collected and so forth, that you can’t get out of that by waiver – it requires the ultimate repeal.
KLEIN: But what do your lawyers think as to why these waivers could take place, because I have the law here, and it says that it applies on January 1, 2017 – under the “waiver for state innovation.”
ROMNEY: When you say “it” -- “it applies”?
KLEIN: The “waiver for state innovation” -- under section 1332.
ROMNEY: The waiver for state innovation?
KLEIN: Yes, that’s the waiver that I believe that you’re talking about when you talk about state waivers. That’s what your campaign has said
ROMNEY: Oh, they say it’s that in particular?
ROMNEY: Then I’d have to have Ben Ginsberg, our lawyer, sit down. If you really want to go into that and tell you what -- if that’s important to you, we’ll have Ben Ginsberg give you a call and talk about what provision of the law we would seek to employ.
It's not surprising that Romney doesn't know the section number of the law that pertains to the waivers. But he seems minimally bothered by the possibility that the waivers might not work for years, and the prospect of the waiver process taking months to play out in court. Nor are Klein's further discussions with a Romney aide particularly convincing that the waiver plan is viable. "Even if we’re being charitable," Klein concludes, "the best we can say is that waiver power is debatable." Which means that so are Romney's pledge to take meaningful action to undo the law on his first day in office.