Maybe Romney should just stop talking about health care policy

MAYBE ROMNEY SHOULD JUST STOP TALKING ABOUT HEALTH CARE POLICY…. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) realizes he has a problem. He’s running for president on his record, the highlight of which is a health care reform law that looks an awful lot like President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He can’t run on a policy the GOP hates, and he can’t abandon his only meaningful achievement in government.

So, Romney continues to scramble. Today, on the ACA’s first anniversary, the unannounced presidential hopeful took to the pages of National Review to offer his latest vision of health care policy.

If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.

As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are “laboratories of democracy.” They should be free to experiment. By the way, what works in one state may not be the answer for another.

Oh, Mitt, maybe you should just stop trying.

First, if the goal is to sound less like the president, this probably won’t help. A month ago, the White House announced that states that want to reach the same policy goals on their own, outside the ACA framework, were welcome to do so. Obama specifically told the nation’s governors, “[I]f you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead.”

It sounds like Romney’s executive order isn’t altogether necessary. Obama has already endorsed the kind of state-based flexibility Republicans say they want. All states have to do is shape a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does, without increasing the deficit. The “laboratories of democracy” are already free to do what Romney wants to help them be free to do.

Second, and just as importantly, Romney’s new line is wholly at odds with his old line. As Greg Sargent explained today, “The problem for Romney, however, is that he has explicitly suggested that Romneycare should serve as a model for efforts to reform our health system on the federal level…. The plain truth is that Romney was proud of his achievement in Massachusetts, and thought it could — and should — help influence policymaking on the federal level.”

Oddly enough, it did.

And third, Romney has to hope that the argument goes no further than the position he articulated in National Review, because if it does, it leads to an awkward conclusion. Jon Chait noted that Romney’s argument, in effect, is, “Some states will choose health care systems that promote freedom, and other states will choose health care systems that destroy it, like, um, Massachusetts.”