Health care reform has been perhaps the biggest policy obstacle to Mitt Romney's presidential hopes since Congress passed the national overhaul early in 2010.

Romney has done his best to quell comparisons between his signature piece of legislation as Massachusetts governor -- a health care reform plan intended to cover nearly every citizen of the Bay State -- and President Barack Obama's national reforms. The GOP candidate has insisted that what worked for Massachusetts was not appropriate for the nation as a whole.

In 2011, Romney said that, had he personally been consulted by White House officials, he would have told them just that:

[The president] does me the great favor of saying that I was the inspiration of his plan. If that's the case, why didn’t you call me? … Why didn't you ask what was wrong? Why didn't you ask if this was an experiment, what worked and what didn’t? … I would have told him, "What you’re doing, Mr. President, is going to bankrupt us."

However, Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed has unearthed a 2009 USA Today op-ed that could make such a line of defense more difficult for Romney going forward.

Talking Points Memo notes that in the article, Romney seems to suggest, contrary to his subsequent posturing on the issue, that he once believed the Massachusetts health care system would be a prudent model for national reform.

After lambasting the Obama administration for its approach to crafting health care reform legislation -- what Romney called "the old style of lawmaking," in which the legislation was "crammed … through a partisan Democratic Congress" -- the GOP hopeful went on to say:

Health care is simply too important to the economy, to employment and to America's families to be larded up and rushed through on an artificial deadline. There's a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it.

Romney pointed specifically to Massachusetts' individual mandate, which requires residents to either obtain health insurance or incur tax penalties. (A similar provision in Obama's health care legislation is now the focus of a Supreme Court legal battle.)

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn't have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages "free riders" to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn't cost the government a single dollar.

The article could prove a rich target for Romney's conservative opponents. Indeed, some are already sounding the alarms. Prominent right-wing blogger Erick Erickson wrote of the unearthed essay: "Friends, if Mitt Romney is the nominee, we will be unable to fight Obama on an issue that 60% of Americans agree with us on."

The USA Today article no longer appears on the paper's website, but it is still available via web archives.

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