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Mitt Romney takes credit for inspiring Obamacare

He took credit for inspiring the Affordable Care Act — and its subsequent success insuring people — in a surprising statement.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in San Diego, Jan. 16, 2015. (Photo by Gregory Bull/AP)
Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks during the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in San Diego, Jan. 16, 2015.

In a surprising move, Mitt Romney seemingly took credit on Friday for inspiring the Affordable Care Act — after famously running as the 2012 Republican nominee on a platform of repealing the law.

Romney championed and signed a comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Known as "Romneycare," it had strong similarities with Obamacare, including a mandate to purchase insurance, but he had long resisted comparisons between the two. In a Boston Globe obituary of Staples founder and longtime Romney backer Thomas Stemberg, however, the former Republican nominee finally embraced the connection.

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“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney said. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” 

After an uproar on social media, Romney clarified in a Facebook post that he still opposed Obamacare, but did not backtrack on his apparent praise of the law's expansion of insurance coverage and its ties to his own legislation. 

"Getting people health insurance is a good thing, and that’s what Tom Stemberg fought for," Romney wrote. "I oppose Obamacare and believe it has failed. It drove up premiums, took insurance away from people who were promised otherwise, and usurped state programs. As I said in the campaign, I'd repeal it and replace it with state-crafted plans."

Democrats who worked on Obmacare had long credited Romney’s law with inspiring its structure. In a landmark Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act's subsidies earlier this year, the majority decision repeatedly cited the national law’s roots in Romneycare as evidence that it was intended to work as the federal government argued.

"Couldn't have said it better myself," Dan Pfeiffer, a former White House adviser to Obama, tweeted on Friday in response to Romney's new quote.

Despite its unpopularity on the right, Romney steadfastly defended his state law — and its combination of a mandate and subsidies to buy private insurance — as a success. 

 "I … recognize that a lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should say that was a bone-headed idea, and I presume folks would think that would be good for me politically,” Romney said in a May 2011 speech on health care. “But there's only one problem with that. It wouldn't be honest.”

At the same time, Romney argued from the beginning of the race that he did not support Obamacare or any national law modeled on his Massachusetts plan and bristled at comparisons between the two.

Asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in a March 2012 interview about the obvious parallels between the two laws, Romney argued that any similarities lent even more credibility to his threats to repeal the ACA.

“If I’m the godfather of this thing, then it gives me the right to kill it,” Romney said.