Romney on ObamaCare Relief: Waiver? I Don't Even Know Her!

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but if a lawsuit ensues, and it takes months to sort it out, well during that time hopefully we will have the bill repealed.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?

KLEIN: Yeah.

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. 

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  • Gov Christie||

    He doesn't know Candy either?

  • ||

    the state-based health care overhaul that served as the model for ObamaCare

    Way to repeat Obamarrhoid talking points. I saw a DNC ad on the news last night saying exactly what Suderman is saying to diss Romney, because they're scared of facing him in the general election.

    The framework that Obamacare was based on has been bandied about since the early 1990s. If Mitt Romney were living in It's a Wonderful Life and had never been born, we would still have Obamacare.

  • wareagle||

    ^^^this. Romney's point from the start, like him or not, was that states can act like incubators to see what policies work and which do not. MA was going to have some sort of health care bill with its heavily Dem legislature; Romney's problem is his political ego will not allow him to say he tried to make the best of a tough situation and the result is far from perfect. That said, there was no intent toward a national bill.

  • ||

    Oh, and I don't get what your beef with Romney on the waiver issue is. It's not a perfect solution, but what's yours?

    If it were possible to repeal the bill through legislative means, Romney would be for that too. It's not possible barring a humungous electoral sea change in favor of the GOP.

    Just another instance of Reason being long on complaints and short on solutions.

  • Bingo||

    Auntie Flo paying you a visit this week?

  • ||

    I guess I always assumed Romney/GOP president was going to issue executive orders to allow the states to opt out. Irregardless of the current text of the law, if the law is unconstitutional, I don't see why he should be forced to implement it. AFAIK, he can effectively shut down the HHS if he wants to.

  • wareagle||

    can he? Can an executive order absolve states of having to comply with a federal law? Just asking. Somehow, doesn't sound like POTUS has that level of power. And, "irregardless"? Come on, man.

  • A Serious Man||

    Or he can just order the Justice Department not to enforce the law by not cracking down on states that fail to comply.

    And really, what can the Federal government do if a state declines to follow Obamacare? Send troops and terminate the state government? It's not like integration, I can't imagine how Federal agents could enforce something as muddled as Obamacare.

  • ola||

    "I can't imagine how Federal agents could enforce something as muddled as Obamacare."

    The old fashioned way, withhold federal money. In this case from medicaid to the states.

  • ||

    I don't understand this post. I'm unsure if it is English or not. However, people who criticize Romney over the Mass healthcare law have an incomplete understanding of the Constitution and our system of government. States and the Federal Government have different powers, by design. Specifically the Federal Government has very limited powers enumerated by the Constitution and all others are given to the states. You will find that many states and localities have property taxes, the federal government does not. It is not a flip flop, or inaccurate, to say that States and localities have the authority to issue property taxes but the feds do not. State Governors have the power to call out the national guard to respond to domestic emergencies, the President does not have this power. There are examples too numerous to cite where the States have a power to do something the Federal Government does not. This is by design. The commerce clause in the Constitution has been abused for about 100 years expanding Federal power, but as originally framed, as any nonpartisan I'm sure would say, it disallows the federal government from enacting things like the individual mandate. However, there is nothing anywhere preventing a state from doing that. It is wholly consistent to say that it is unconstitutional for the Federal Government to do someone but okay for a state, because they aren't bound by the same rules, by design. This is important to our success as a country. If the states are free to design many of their own policies we will have 50 experiments going on, we will have competition between states, and in the end, our country will be better for it. This is why the concept of States Rights is so important, and it is why Romney is entirely correct to defend his plan, and attack Obamacare. You can defend the right of a Governor to call out the national guard but continue to oppose the right of the President to do the same, can't you? Massachusetts certainly has the right to experiment in healthcare policy. So the next time some Constitutional neophyte asks why Obamacare can be unconstitutional but Romneycare not, remind them that Massachusetts has its own constitution, and while it can not overrule the US Constitution, in this case it doesn't because Obamacare is unconstitutional because the Constitution limits Federal authority to the regulation of interstate commerce, and the 10th amendment dictates any power not enumerated, specifically, to the feds is reserved for the states, or the people. This makes state governments free to regulation education, healthcare, and anything else not mentioned. The question before the Supreme Court will be: Does the act of not buying a product and sitting on a couch constitute participation in interstate commerce. If it isn't interstate commerce, the feds can't touch it.

  • ||

    Also, Obama has vastly increased the power of the executive branch through his practice of doing things like his little student loan program by executive order. Do you think Romney could do the same thing to push waivers through? He could, theoretically, order the law unenforced.

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