KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Assails Romney For Shift On Mandate

President Barack Obama questions whether Republican Mitt Romney's view that the mandate is a tax is "abandoning a principle" because of pressure from critics. Romney's campaign says he hasn't changed his views, and that the mandate is different on a federal level.

Associated Press: Obama Accuses Romney Of Caving On Taxes
President Barack Obama is accusing Republican Mitt Romney of caving under pressure from Rush Limbaugh for saying that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance amounts to a tax. Obama says in an interview with NBC affiliate WLWT in Cincinnati that Romney supported the individual mandate as Massachusetts governor but "has suddenly reversed himself." Obama says it raises questions over whether Romney is abandoning a principle after "getting pressure for two days from Rush Limbaugh" or other critics (7/6).

ABC: Obama Hits Romney On Health Care Flip Flops
He also questioned Romney’s change of heart on whether the punishment for those who can afford insurance but don't buy it is a "tax" or a "penalty." "The fact that a whole bunch of Republicans in Washington suddenly said this is a tax — for six years, he said it wasn't, and now he suddenly reversed himself. And so, the question becomes 'Are you doing that because of politics? Are you abandoning a principle that you fought for for six years simply because you’re getting pressure for two days?'" Obama said (Tapper, 7/6).

Politico: Obama: Romney 'Abandoning ... Principle' On Health Care
In an email, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul reiterated the argument the former Massachusetts governor made in a July 4 CBS interview: that he hasn't changed his views, but that a mandate is legally different on the federal level than on the state level. "Governor Romney has always said that he did not raise taxes and that his Massachusetts reforms were designed to penalize those who were free-riding on others," she said. "States have that power but the federal government does not" (Burns, 7/6).

The New York Times: In Defending His Health Care Plan, Romney Often Called Its Mandate A Tax
As the Massachusetts governor and then as a presidential candidate, Mr. Romney spent the next six years describing in a variety of different ways the possible punishments for ignoring the Massachusetts mandate: as "free-rider surcharges," "tax penalties," "tax incentives" and sometimes just as "penalties." But regardless of the terms he used, his intentions were clear: Massachusetts residents who chose not to buy health insurance would see their state income taxes go up. ... Both his plan and Mr. Obama's use the threat of higher taxes to motivate people to buy insurance. But Mr. Romney is seeking to draw a sharp distinction between the two, criticizing the president's approach with the same language that he once happily applied to his own achievement (Shear and Parker, 7/5).

Slate: Tax Dodger: Mitt Romney's Evolving Positions On Whether Mandatory Health Insurance Is A Tax
Does Mitt Romney think that penalizing people who don’t buy health insurance is a tax? The answer depends on when you ask him and whether he’s the guy who imposed the penalty.  Here’s how his position has evolved over the years (Saletan, 7/5). 

Bloomberg: Romney Declaration On Health Mandate Tax May Boomerang
Mitt Romney's assertion that President Barack Obama's mandate to buy health insurance amounts to a tax increase may boomerang by opening the presumptive Republican nominee to the same charge.  As governor of Massachusetts, Romney championed a state health-care plan with a similar mandate to buy insurance -- one he says today should be described as a penalty not a tax boost (Lerer, 7/6).

NPR: 'Obamneycare' Revisited: Tax Penalties Most Similar Part, Expert Says
When Mitt Romney was still battling last fall to become the GOP candidate for president, we compared the health care plan he implemented as governor of Massachusetts to the one President Obama signed into law in 2010. ... (Following the Supreme Court ruling) we came up with five ways the two plans are similar — and five ways they are different. The analysis post-Supreme Court decision stands largely unaffected, with one notable change in the ability of the federal government to impose on the states an expansion of Medicaid (Halloran, 7/5).

Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist says the health law increases taxes.

The Hill: Norquist: 'ObamaCare Is ObamaTax'
Washington's leading anti-tax activist has laid out Republicans' election-year argument against the healthcare law — and it all comes down to taxes. "A vote for Mr. Obama is a vote for more than $5.5 trillion in higher taxes over the next 10 years," Grover Norquist wrote in the Washington Times. "A vote for Mitt Romney and a Republican Congress will repeal all 20 of ObamaCare’s taxes and extend all the lapsing tax hikes so Congress can reform the tax code without a tax increase," he wrote (Viebeck, 7/5).

And in his interview with CBS, Romney also talked about Chief Justice John Roberts' decision on the health law.

The New York Times: Romney Sees 'Political Consideration' In Chief Justice's Health Care Vote
Mitt Romney seemed to challenge the motivation behind the decisive vote by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to uphold the Affordable Care Act, saying reports that the justice switched his vote suggested that the ruling was based on a "political consideration" rather than a legal judgment. "It gives the impression that the decision was made not based upon constitutional foundation, but instead political consideration about the relationship between the branches of government," Mr. Romney said in an interview with CBS that was broadcast on Thursday morning (Barbaro, 7/5).

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