White House officials, including President Obama, occasionally like to mention how much they agree with Mitt Romney on health care policy. David Axelrod recently said of the Republican frontrunner, “We got some good ideas from him.”
How literal was this sentiment? Michael Isikoff reports this morning on the direct role that Romney’s health care policy team played in helping shape Obama’s reform plan.
Newly obtained White House records provide fresh details on how senior Obama administration officials used Mitt Romney’s landmark health-care law in Massachusetts as a model for the new federal law, including recruiting some of Romney’s own health care advisers and experts to help craft the act now derided by Republicans as “Obamacare.”
The records, gleaned from White House visitor logs reviewed by NBC News, show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006, when the Republican presidential candidate was governor of Massachusetts. One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.
“The White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts,” said Jon Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney administration on health care and who attended five meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. “They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model.”
We’ve known from the beginning that Romney’s Massachusetts plan helped create the framework for the White House’s policy. Indeed, the so-called “RomneyCare” law is practically indistinguishable from the Affordable Care Act, including the controversial individual mandate.
But Isikoff’s report adds a new wrinkle. It was merely embarrassing for Romney when the president and West Wing officials would say they were inspired by the former governor’s health care law, but the realization that Romney’s own policy team was brought in to help point Obama and his aides in the right direction is more problematic for the GOP presidential candidate. It makes it that much more difficult for Romney to distance himself from the health care law the right hates with the heat of a thousand suns, and arguably strengthens the case that Romney has part-ownership over the national reform law.
In effect, Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republicans call “ObamaCare.” It was Romney’s policy that created the blueprint for Obama’s policy, and it was Romney’s team that served as advisers to Obama’s team.
Given that there’s a Republican debate tonight, I’d be surprised if we don’t hear quite a bit more about this from Romney’s GOP rivals.