Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich praised the health care law that his rival for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, signed in 2006 as governor of Massachusetts, according to a newsletter unearthed by the Wall Street Journal.
"The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system," reads "Newt Notes" from Gingrich's former consulting company, the Center For Health Transformation. "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans." Gingrich's spokesman responded that the newsletter was not written by the former House speaker and it should it be read as an endorsement of the plan.
Gingrich has attacked the Massachusetts health care law as a presidential candidate. In an Oct. 18 debate, he said to Romney, "Your plan essentially is one more big-government, bureaucratic high-cost system." He added, "There's a lot of big government behind Romneycare -- not as much as Obamacare -- but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting."
The Huffington Post's Jon Ward reported that a recent Gingrich entitlement reform proposal argued that health care mandates lead to "socialized medicine" whether they are adopted at the "federal level, or the state level." The Massachusetts health care law requires individuals to have insurance or pay up to a $1,200 a year penalty, and employers with 11 or more employees to make a "fair and reasonable" contribution toward health insurance or pay a $295 penalty per employee. Individual and employer subsidies are provided.
Romney has defended the individual mandate, saying it's a conservative concept. "Don't forget, this health care plan was something we learned about from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank," Romney said in a recent interview with Sean Hannity. "Even Newt Gingrich supported the idea of an individual mandate, insisting on personal responsibility."
Gingrich indeed supported the idea of an individual mandate in 1993, and said again in May 2011, " I've said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond ... or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable."
Gingrich praised the plan in the 2006 newsletter. "While the Commonwealth's plan will naturally endure tremendous scrutiny from those who assert that the law will not work as intended, Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system."
Gingrich then offered a prescient observation: "I hope that Massachusetts' initiative to provide affordable, quality health insurance for all continues to ignite even more debate around the subject of how to best address our nation's uninsured crisis and the critical problems within the health system at large."