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Comments about Mitt Romney's support of the Massachusetts health care plan prompted a testy exchange during the CNN Republican debate in Las Vegas.
It began with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum making an aside that Romney's plan "was the basis for Obamacare. Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare."
Romney said he had consistently said it was"crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation." That prompted a feisty back-and-forth with head-shaking and interruptions.
When the dust settled, Romney said, "It was something crafted for a state. And I've said time and again, Obamacare is bad news. It's unconstitutional. It costs way too much money, a trillion dollars. And if I'm president of the United States, I will repeal it for the American people."
ANDERSON COOPER: "All right. Senator Santorum?"
SANTORUM: "Mitt, the governor of Massachusetts just is coming forward saying we have to pick up the job left undone by Romneycare, which is doing something about cutting health care costs.
"What you did is exactly what Barack Obama did: focused on the wrong problem. Herman always says you've got to find the right problem. Well, the right problem is health care costs. What you did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs. You've blown a hole in the budget up there. And you authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country."
COOPER: "Governor Romney, I'm going to give you 30 seconds."
ROMNEY: "I'm -- I'm sorry, Rick, that you find so much to dislike in my plan, but I'll tell you, the people in Massachusetts like it by about a 3-1 margin."
Romney made a similar claim during last week's debate, so we checked it out.
We found one survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe. Interviews with a sample of 537 respondents age 18 and older were conducted from May 24 to May 26, 2011.
The survey asked this question, among others: "Given what you know about it, in general, do you support or oppose the Massachusetts Universal Health Insurance Law?"
The pollsters found that 63 percent supported the law, 21 percent opposed the law, 6 percent didn’t know, and 9 percent hadn’t heard of the law. The ratio of 63 percent support and 21 percent opposition is exactly 3 to 1, supporting Romney’s claim. (Support is actually up compared to a previous Harvard-Globe poll in 2009, when the breakdown was 53 percent to 25 percent, or slightly over 2 to 1.)
And such levels of support don’t appear to be unusual. An annual survey sponsored by the Urban Institute and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation has somewhat different methodology but found similar levels of support. Between 2006 and 2009, support for the law was, respectively, 69 percent, 71 percent, 72 percent and 67 percent. (We don’t know the exact ratio of support to opposition because the survey did not release the percentages for those who opposed the law or who had no opinion.)
"There is no discussion here of repealing the law," said Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. "Romney has it right in the sense that residents in Massachusetts don't want to repeal the law."
Romney has strong support for this claim. A recent survey by a credible pollster found the ratio of support to opposition for the Massachusetts law at 3 to 1, and other polls suggest levels of support even higher. So we rate Romney’s statement True.
Editor's note: This item was originally published on Oct. 12 for the original claim. We have added the new wording from the Oct. 18 debate.
Transcript of Republican presidential debate at Hanover, N.H., Oct. 11, 2011 (accessed via CQ, subscribers only)
Harvard School of Public Health/Boston Globe, Massachusetts Health Reform Law Survey 2011, May 24-26, 2011
Urban Institute and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, "Health Reform in Massachusetts: An Update as of Fall 2009," June 2010
E-mail interview with Jeffrey Berry, political scientist at Tufts University, Oct. 12, 2011
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