12/16/2011 01:01 pm ET

Mitt Romney Assured Nikki Haley On Health Care Waiver Before Endorsement Despite Hurdles

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney assured South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) that he would grant a waiver to her state to opt out of the health care law signed by President Barack Obama before she endorsed him Friday. However, that process is subject to numerous restrictions and does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017.

CNN reported that Haley met privately with Romney in November in Tampa:

"I have talked to him about the health care situation," she told CNN in a phone interview Friday. "He is very aware that that is not something I want in South Carolina."

Haley said Romney assured her that he will grant a waiver to South Carolina to opt out of President Barack Obama's health care law, and said he will push to repeal the law if elected.

She came away from the meeting convinced.

For a state to be granted a waiver, it must show that it will provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as the Affordable Care Act, insure a comparable number of residents and the state's plan must not shift costs to the federal government. The waivers do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, which would be at the end of Romney's first term if he is elected.

A Congressional Research Service report requested by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) states that "A President would not appear to be able to issue an executive order halting an agency from promulgating a rule that is statutorily required by PPACA, as such an action would conflict with an explicit congressional mandate." In other words, unless Congress overturned the health care law -- something Romney says he will push for -- the "congressional mandate" would be when Congress passed the law in 2010.

Phillip Klein of the Washington Examiner grilled Romney about the provision in the law granting state waivers. Romney referred Klein to his lawyer. An aide followed up with him:

The aide emphasized that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn all or parts of the health care law by the time Romney would take office. If not, many regulatory aspects of Obamacare are likely to be delayed through lawsuits and other roadblocks, as has already been the case with some provisions of the law. The aide also noted that Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have already sponsored a bill -- that Obama says he supports -- that would move up the effective date of the state waivers to 2014. Under the worst case scenario in which none of this happens, the aide said, if Romney issued the executive order, it would provide more certainty to individuals, businesses and states that they would be free of the Obamacare burdens in 2017.

The aide rejected the CRS report, saying that the Romney administration would be following the law by issuing the waivers.

Haley dictated the outcome of a committee tasked with how the state should implement health care reform, according to a report in The Post And Courier of Charleston, S.C. "The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange," she said in an email. The panel recommended not setting up a state exchange, meaning that South Carolina would join a federally-run exchange in 2014.