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Santorum: Romney, Obama healthcare mandates one and the same

January 26, 2012|By Robin Abcarian
  • Rick Santorum makes a point in the GOP debate in Florida.
Rick Santorum makes a point in the GOP debate in Florida. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

Rick Santorum took on Mitt Romney for his embrace of a universal healthcare mandate in Massachusetts, saying Romney would be an ineffective opponent against President Obama because both had backed "government-run, top-down medicine."

"Those are not the clear contrasts we are going to need if we are going to defeat Barack Obama," Santorum said.

"I didn't say I was in favor of top-down, government-run healthcare," Romney said. Most of the 92% of Massachusetts residents who already had health insurance kept their plans or were able to buy policies from private insurers. To the 8% who lacked insurance, Romney said, his plan sent a clear message: "If you don't want to buy insurance, you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill.... We said no more free riders.... Either get the insurance or help pay for your care."

Santorum zeroed in like a prosecutor: "So ... everybody is mandated as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts to be able to buy health insurance, and if you don't you have to pay a fine. What's happened in Massachusetts is people are not paying the fine.... Free ridership has gone up five-fold in Massachusetts."

Romney seemed on the verge of responding with an epithet: "That's total ... "

Then he pulled back.

"First of all, it's not worth getting angry about," though it was unclear whether he was addressing Santorum or himself.

Romney pivoted back to Obama: "What he did was wrong; it's bad medicine, it's bad for the economy, and I will repeal it."

But Santorum could not resist a final shot: "What Gov. Romney said is just factually incorrect. Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama's mandate. It is the same mandate."

At that point, Ron Paul weighed in: "I think they're all wrong. This is a typical result of when you get government involved, because all you are arguing about is which form of government you want. They have way too much confidence in government sorting this out."

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