Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Romney Rejects Gop Attack on Health Care Mandate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Romney Rejects Gop Attack on Health Care Mandate

Article excerpt

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on Monday rejected a Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, repudiating a contention made in last week's Supreme Court decision that the law's requirement that individuals carry medical coverage amounts to a tax.

The Romney team's refusal to invoke the word "tax" with regard to the individual mandate puts the candidate at odds with others in his party at a moment when Republicans are attempting to capitalize on the Supreme Court's decision, which deemed President Barack Obama's health care law constitutional. Some Republican-led states are now trying to thwart the legislation's effort to cover the poor.

In an MSNBC interview Monday, Romney campaign senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said the former Massachusetts governor "disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax."

While disappointing to conservatives, the justices' decision contained what they saw as two silver linings: the potential to fuel political opposition to the law and a path to undermine its substance.

First, in ruling that Congress has the ability under its taxation power to fine people who choose not to have health coverage, the court undercut Mr. Obama's credibility on how to define that provision. He had insisted repeatedly that it is not a tax. Republicans and their allies seized on that part of the decision, and are running ads that highlight it.

"The president said it was not a tax," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. "The Supreme Court, which has the final say, says it is a tax."

Second, the court overturned a part of the law that would let the federal government take away Medicaid funding from states that do not expand their programs to cover everyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The new law offers federal funding to cover nearly the entire cost of adding those newly eligible to the Medicaid rolls.

But in a move that threatens to undercut the law's goal of covering those who lack health insurance, Republican governors in at least four states -- Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and South Carolina -- have said they probably will turn down that additional money from Washington rather than broaden their Medicaid eligibility. …

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