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By Julie Kliegman December 18, 2013

Marco Rubio endorsed Obamacare for his family, Charlie Crist says

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat and a 2014 candidate for governor, wrote an op-ed thanking U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a one-time Senate race opponent of his.

Sound nice? It isn’t. It’s a thinly veiled dig at Rubio.

"Senator Marco Rubio’s endorsement of Obamacare for his own family should end the rhetoric coming from Governor Rick Scott and other tea party groups," Crist wrote, adding, "The rollout of the Affordable Health Care Act has clearly been flawed, but that doesn’t mean that our work towards affordable health care should end. It should continue."

We wanted to sort through the rhetoric and clarify Rubio’s stance on President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

First things first: Rubio did purchase insurance for his family on the Washington marketplace. Rubio and others are signing up for insurance on the Obamacare marketplaces to comply with the law’s individual mandate.

Federal lawmakers will stop getting government-provided coverage. Instead, they’ll purchase insurance alongside small businesses and the uninsured. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced that rule in an amendment to the law so that legislators would see firsthand what average Americans would experience on the marketplaces.

Federal legislators make up the only group of people to get kicked off employer-provided insurance. When they sign up on the marketplaces, they’ll get a subsidy that covers up to 75 percent of their premium costs. That subsidy they get is similar to the deal many Americans get through employer-provided benefits.

Some of Rubio’s fellow Republicans have refused the federal subsidy, or refused insurance on the marketplaces altogether in favor of choosing a policy directly through a private insurer. Crist is highlighting that Rubio didn’t do the same. But does taking the subsidy mean Rubio endorsed Obamacare for his family?

Crist’s spokesman offered us one Merriam-Webster definition of "endorse" to support his point: "to publicly say that you like or use (a product or service) in exchange for money."

But there’s another definition that applies here, one that’s at least equally common: "to publicly or officially say that you support or approve of (someone or something)."

Rubio is publicly saying he’s using a product, but it’s not quite right to say it’s in exchange for money. The money is awarded to any U.S. legislator who buys insurance on the exchanges, whether or not they make that decision public. He’s getting the money because that’s what the law stipulates, not because he’s promoting Obamacare.

And that second definition of "endorse" rings false. Rubio has been vocal in his criticism of Obamacare, as Crist’s column itself acknowledges.

"Senator Rubio is following the law, even though he opposes it," said Brooke Sammon, Rubio’s spokeswoman, after the senator enrolled in Obamacare.

Rubio has even called the individual mandate a "disaster," and pushed for getting the entire law repealed and replaced.

In response to Crist’s column, Rubio said Monday, "I don’t endorse Obamacare. I much rather would have a vibrant private market where individuals like myself and others can buy health insurance from any company that will sell it to us."

It is worth repeating the Miami Herald’s observation, though, that when Rubio served as Florida House speaker while Crist was governor, Rubio pushed to open an exchange that would help small businesses offer insurance. So he’s supported that sort of concept before, even if he emphatically doesn’t support something similar on the federal level.

Our ruling

Crist said Rubio endorsed Obamacare for his family. He did sign up for insurance on the Washington marketplace, but we think calling that an endorsement is too strong. Rubio certainly doesn’t support Obamacare, and has pushed for its repeal. He’s signed up through the marketplace simply to abide by the law. We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email interview with Brooke Sammon, Marco Rubio spokeswoman, Dec. 16, 2013

Merriam-Webster, "endorse," accessed Dec. 17, 2013

Miami Herald, "Marco Rubio defends $10K subsidy after Obamacare signup," Dec. 16, 2013

Phone and email interviews with Kevin Cate, Charlie Crist spokesman, Dec. 17, 2013

PolitiFact, "Sen. Ted Cruz says Obama ‘just granted all of Congress an exception’ to Obamacare," Aug. 14, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Charlie Crist: ‘Thank you, Senator Rubio, for your endorsement of the new health care law,’ " Dec. 13, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Rubio: Delay individual mandate while Obamacare website problems addressed," Oct. 21, 2013

Tampa Bay Times, "Rubio enrolls in Obamacare, takes federal subsidy," Dec. 10, 2013

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More by Julie Kliegman

Marco Rubio endorsed Obamacare for his family, Charlie Crist says

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