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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan November 29, 2011

Did Mitt Romney flip-flop on health care reform? DNC says so

A 30-second ad from the Democratic National Committee mocks Republican candidate Mitt Romney for changing position.

"Two men trapped in one body. Mitt vs. Mitt," the ad proclaims, adding, "Two Mitts willing to say anything."

The ad highlights Romney’s former positions on abortion and health care, and teases to a web site the Democrats have created,, which claims to document even more changes on policy.

Here, we’re fact-checking the ad’s claims about health care. As governor of Massachusetts in 2006, Romney signed a law that intended for every Massachusetts resident to have health insurance.

As we’ve noted in previous fact-checks, the national health care law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010 bears a strong resemblance to the earlier Massachusetts law. Both plans leave in place the major insurance systems: employer-provided insurance, Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor. The plans reduce the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and by offering subsidies to help those with modest incomes buy insurance. When the plans are fully in place, everyone must have insurance or pay a penalty, a requirement called the "individual mandate." Employers that don't offer health insurance to their employees will have to pay fines, with exceptions for small businesses and a few other cases.

In interviews after the law passed, Romney said that the ideas in the state plan could be used in other states or even nationally.

"This is a Democratic ideal, which is getting health care for everybody but achieved in a Republican way, which is reforming the private marketplace and insisting on personal responsibility," Romney said in an interview with the Associated Press in 2006.

The DNC video shows two clips of Romney speaking. The first says, "We put together an exchange, and the president’s copying that idea. I’m glad to hear that." Words on the screen say "pro-health reform."

In the second clip Romney says, "Obamacare is bad news." Text says "anti-health reform."

So was Romney for health care reform before he was against it? We decided to check it out.

Romney’s supposedly positive comments on health reform are from an interview with CBS News in June 2009. Romney did say that he was glad the national law included an exchange, but he also had pointed criticism for Obama’s plan.

He was particularly critical of creating a government-run health insurance plan, the so-called "public option."

"One thing we did not do was put in place a government insurance program. We did not have a government plan where people bought government insurance. That’s a mistake. Going down that road would mean, down the road, hundreds of billions of dollars of additional costs," he said in the CBS interview.

Throughout 2009, much of Romney’s criticism of the health care law focused on the public option. In his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, which was released in early 2010 before the law’s final passage, he said the public option was "simply a transitional step" toward the creation of a single-payer health care system. (A single-payer system is one in which government pays the bills for health care using tax revenues. Medicare, the government health insurance program for those over 65, is an example.)

The public option became moot, though. A government-run health insurance option wasn’t popular enough among Democrats in the U.S. Senate, so it didn’t make it into the final version of the health care law.

Still, the demise of the public option did not cause Romney to embrace the law. Instead, he has continued to criticize Obama’s plan as an overreach of federal power. Health care reform should be left to the states, he has said.

"Our plan was a state solution to a state problem, and his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one-size-fits-all plan across the nation," Romney said in Michigan in May 2011, when he gave an extended presentation on his views on health care.

Our ruling

It’s true that the law Romney signed in Massachusetts in 2006 looks a great deal like the federal law Obama signed in 2010.

But the video implies that Romney supported the federal law. We looked, but we couldn’t find any instances when Romney endorsed the federal law. Instead, we found Romney criticized Obama’s plan repeatedly, usually over the public option. After the public option was left out of the law, Romney still criticized the law as a federal power grab.

Democrats could make an argument that Romney has changed position in opposing the type of plan he once supported. But in this ad, they imply he once supported Obama’s proposal. We don’t find that he did, and we rate the Democrats’ statement Mostly False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Democratic National Committee, "Trapped" TV ad, Nov. 28, 2011

Democratic National Committee, Mitt v. Mitt website, accessed Nov. 28, 2011

CBS News, interview with Mitt Romney, June 24, 2009

USA Today, Mr. President, what's the rush? (op-ed by Mitt Romney), June 30, 2009

Human Events, Romney Attacks Obamacare, July 31, 2009

The National Review, A Campaign Begins Today(op-ed by Mitt Romney), March 22, 2010

The Associated Press, Romney's health care plan draws praise from Hillary Clinton, talk of '08 bid, April 5, 2006, accessed via Nexis

Federal News Service, Remarks by Gov. Mitt Romney on health reform, May 12, 2011, accessed via Nexis

PolitiFact Texas, Rick Perry says "Romneycare was model for Obamacare,"Oct. 21, 2011

PolitiFact, Pawlenty says Obamacare is patterned after Romneycare, Aug. 12, 2011

PolitiFact, Rick Perry says Mitt Romney shifted stance when he deleted health care line from his book, Sept. 23, 2011

The Boston Phoenix, Romney Rewrites, Sampler, Feb. 10, 2011

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Did Mitt Romney flip-flop on health care reform? DNC says so

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