Mitt Romney speaks at a rally at Clearview Mall in Metairie, La. on March… (Skip Bolen )
Reporting from Metairie, La. —
Days before President Obama's signature healthcare law goes in front of the Supreme Court, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney vowed to repeal and replace the law, speaking to a supportive crowd in a suburb of New Orleans.
"It's critical that we repeal Obamacare and, by the way, also replace it," he said. "I think I'm the only person in this race who's laid out what I would replace it with."
Romney said he plans to give a waiver to all 50 states discontinuing the president's plan – known formally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- and returning healthcare responsibilities to the states. He wants to take Medicaid money administered by the federal government and give it to states as block grants. His plan also includes giving individuals the same tax break that companies get when they buy insurance for their employees, allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines, and encouraging consumers to shop around for the least expensive medical services, creating competition among healthcare providers.
"Obamacare in my opinion is simply the wrong direction," Romney said, speaking without a teleprompter or visible notes. "Obamacare substitutes government intrusiveness for the dynamics of individual responsibility."
In his speech Friday, in the community room of a shopping mall where giant banners read "Repeal and Replace Obamacare," Romney criticized the healthcare law for raising costs and for restricting religious freedom, but fell short of censuring Obama for mandating that individuals have health insurance.
Doing so would put Romney in a tough spot, as his healthcare law in Massachusetts required that all residents purchase health insurance.
"Obamacare is massively more expensive than had been originally estimated," he said, referring to a quote from Florida Sen. Mario Rubio, who is considered a top contender for the vice presidential spot. "We can't afford more government spending, we can't afford more taxes."
Romney appeared comfortable in the small room, dressed in a suit and no tie. He even slipped into local vernacular at one point, addressing the audience with "Y'all," quickly correcting himself, adding "You all. I'm not going to try to pretend that I'm from Louisiana."
The audience was peppered with doctors in white coats, including Dr. Shane French, an OB-GYN who said she was worried that the president's plan would "make insurance companies fold." She said the plan's emphasis on preventive care might strain budgets so much that there won't be enough money left for other expenses.
Despite the warm reception, Romney's speech won't likely help him win this Southern state. A poll released today by Public Policy Polling showed Santorum with a double-digit lead over Romney in Louisiana, 42% to 28%.
But he might have won some enthusiasm for the general election from voters such as Jason Waguespack, a 30-year-old research assistant who was at the mall to hear Romney speak. He, like many Republicans, opposes the Obama plan because it mandates buying health insurance.
"It's an individual mandate," he said. "It's telling you you have to buy something, and the government should not impose a mandate for us to buy something."
Waguespack plans to vote for Santorum in the primary Saturday, but he says he'll vote for Romney in November -- if he's able to win the nomination.
Original source: Romney vows to repeal and replace 'Obamacare' on law's anniversary