Aide says Romney thinks US health mandate not a tax

July 2, 2012

A top aide to White House hopeful Mitt Romney thrust a wrench Monday into the Republican attack line that President Barack Obama's individual health insurance mandate is a tax, arguing it's actually a penalty.

Senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney characterized it as a penalty when he instituted a similar policy while governor of Massachusetts, and essentially said there is no daylight between the Republican candidate and the president in describing Obama's individual mandate today in the same terms.

The /penalty debate erupted immediately after the issued its historic ruling Thursday on .

The court said Obama's signature domestic achievement, including its controversial individual mandate which compels Americans to either have health insurance or pay a fine, was constitutional under Congress's taxing powers.

"The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty, and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax," Fehrnstrom told .

Asked directly if Romney agrees with Obama that the individual mandate should not be characterized as a tax, Fehrnstrom said: "That's correct."

The comments could serve to undermine the widely held Republican position that the individual mandate will usher in a massive tax hike when it comes into effect in 2014, eagerly repeated by party top brass like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Repealing "Obamacare," as critics call the Act, is a mainstay of the Romney campaign and most Republican lawmakers as they gear up for the November election, and the Republican-led House has scheduled a vote on July 11 on whether to repeal the law.

Fehrnstrom inadvertently highlighted the tricky position Romney finds himself in over the law, which insures 32 million more Americans who previously did not have insurance and prohibits companies from denying coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions.

Romney instituted similar policies while governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and in a 2009 opinion piece in USA Today he wrote that "using tax penalties as we did... encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others," an argument the Obama administration uses today.

Fehrnstrom insisted though that "what we did in Massachusetts works for Massachusetts.... It was never meant to be a one-size-fits-all plan for the entire nation."

Explore further: US Supreme Court sets hearings on Obama health reform

Related Stories

US Supreme Court sets hearings on Obama health reform

December 19, 2011

The US Supreme Court will hear evidence challenging President Barack Obama's health care reform -- which has come under fire from Republicans -- over three days in March, a spokeswoman said Monday.

Supreme Court takes up heart of Obama health law

March 27, 2012

The Supreme Court dives into the heart of President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law Tuesday, taking up its most divisive requirement -- that Americans maintain insurance or be fined.

US House votes to repeal tax on medical devices

June 8, 2012

The US House of Representatives ignored a White House veto threat and voted Thursday to repeal a tax on medical devices, an element of President Barack Obama's health care law which Republicans say kills jobs and hinders ...

US high court upholds heart of Obama health law

June 27, 2012

(AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the heart of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, handing him a huge election-year political victory and keeping in force the legislative centerpiece of his ...

Top US court to announce fate of Obama health plan

June 28, 2012

(AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to decide the fate Thursday morning of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a ruling that could touch the lives of virtually every American and mark a pivotal point ...

Recommended for you

Is soda bad for your brain? (and is diet soda worse?)

April 20, 2017

Americans love sugar. Together we consumed nearly 11 million metric tons of it in 2016, according to the US Department of Agriculture, much of it in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages like sports drinks and soda.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 02, 2012
Romney is stuck with this decision... he can thank GW for that. And since Obama is going to have another 4 years, it is likely that the Dems will be able to 'swing' the court more in the favor of the common man.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.