Like many of President Obama’s critics, Mitt Romney has invested quite a bit of energy lately going after the administration on contraception coverage. The attacks have been a little awkward for the former governor because, not too long ago, Romney and Obama were largely in agreement on the issue.
This inconvenient detail has not gone unnoticed, and on Fox News yesterday, Neil Cavuto broached the subject. Romney replied, “Actually the legislation in our state that related to providing contraception and sterilization, those kinds of things in insurance, occurred before I was governor. And my effort as governor was to try and remove those things. I was unsuccessful in removing them – my legislature was 85 percent Democrat – but the White House can’t point to my record because this occurred before I became governor and my effort was to get it out of the legislation going forward.”
He repeated the line last night, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “When I came into office and we were working on healthcare I fought to remove those mandates from coverages.”
That’s not what happened.
It’s true that some of this policy pre-dates Romney’s one term in office. In 2002, then-Gov. Jane Swift (R) signed a measure requiring insurers to cover the cost of contraceptives. Insurance purchased by churches or church-controlled organizations were exempt.
Four years later, then-Gov. Romney signed a statewide health care reform package into law that solidified the contraception mandate. While he now claims to have “fought to remove” the mandates, these efforts appear to exist only in Romney’s imagination.
The Democratic National Committee hosted a conference call yesterday with former Massachusetts Secretary for Human Services Phil Johnston and John McDonough, Harvard professor of public health, both of whom are experts on Romney’s state-based health care law, and both of whom explained yesterday that the presidential candidate’s rhetoric is at odds with reality.
Here’s what Johnson told reporters:
“Mitt Romney never expressed any concern about the mandate – never mentioned that it would infringe upon religious freedoms. During the four years that Governor Romney served, he was totally silent about that issue. Most notably, his signature issue as Governor, which all of us supported and which we now affectionately refer to as ‘Romneycare’ left the contraception mandate in place.
“So when he says he opposes the contraception mandate and will repeal it, which apparently he’s been saying the past day or two since this issue has become very public, he’s really not being truthful. He had four years to repeal it or to speak out against it in our state and he didn’t do that. And even more tellingly, his own healthcare plan which he signed into law embraced contraception mandates.”
And here was McDonough’s take:
“[Romney] did not, in fact, propose eliminating broader mandated benefits protections for Massachusetts consumers. More importantly, the law that he signed a year later in April 2006 also created the Commonwealth Care program as well as other new insurance programs and that included coverage for all of the existing mandated benefits at the time, including contraception coverage.
“The record does match a lot of the claims that are being made on it. There was a pretty consistent level of support for contraceptive coverage and mandated benefits throughout the Romney era when he was governor. I have absolutely zero recollection of any reference at any point, as a candidate or as governor, where he attacked or tried to undermine contraceptive coverage.”
Romney rolled out a new spin yesterday on Fox News, but there’s ample evidence the new line just isn’t true.