Mitt Romney and the Lessons of Health Care Deadlines

By Gorman Gorman

Jul 30, 2009 4:32pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., jumped back into the debate over health care reform today with a sharply worded op-ed in USA Today, asking — as the headline states — “Mr. President, What’s the Rush?” “Because of President Obama's frantic approach, health care has run off the rails. For the sake of 47 million uninsured Americans, we need to get it back on track,” Romney writes. Romney — a once and quite possibly future presidential candidate — blasts President Obama for seeking to impose an “artificial deadline” on health care reform. “There's a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it,” he writes.Yet there’s another lesson in the Massachusetts example: Deadlines can be useful to executives.Though the comparison is far from precise, Romney himself at one point tried to use a deadline to goad the state legislature into action. When the pace of talks slowed in early 2006, he cited a July 1, 2006, deadline that — if not met, he warned — would cost the state millions in federal Medicaid dollars. “We have an agreement that starts July 1,” Romney said in February 2006, according to The Boston Globe. “If we don't have something in place on July 1, there is a risk that [the federal government] will withhold or not provide funding on a day-to-day basis.” Two months later, Gov. Romney was able to sign the state’s historic health care reform bill — dramatically reducing the number of uninsured residents in Massachusetts — into law.Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, points out that the president’s deadline is quite different than what the governor was referencing. Health care reform was a years-long process in Massachusetts, and Romney was citing a federal deadline that, if missed, would cost the state matching funds.”The fact is we spent two years putting together a health care bill. President Obama wants to get it done in two months. That's unrealistic,” Fehrnstrom said.He also noted that the same Globe story from February 2006 includes this quote from the governor: “Negotiations are a process and take time, and this is a major piece of legislation, and it takes more time than average.” A DNC spokesman, Hari Sevugan, sees things differently: “Wait, Mitt Romney flip-flopped on an issue?! No, way!” he said.

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