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Romney: Obama's 'dishonesty' on health care puts second term in peril

By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

Last year’s losing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday that President Barack Obama’s "fundamental dishonesty" on the Affordable Care Act has “put in peril the whole foundation of his second term.”

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, Romney said Obama’s handling of Obamacare’s promises “has undermined the foundation of his second term – I think it is rotting it away.”

He added that what “has really undermined the president's credibility in the hearts of the American people is that he went out, as a centerpiece of his campaign and as a centerpiece of Obamacare over the last several years, saying time and time again that fundamental to his plan was the right people would have to keep their insurance plan, and he knew that was not the case....”

He said “had the president been truthful and told the American people that millions would lose their insurance and millions more would see their premiums skyrocket… there would have been such a hue and cry against it, (that) it would not have passed.” 

Romney said even though he’d signed into law when he was governor of Massachusetts a health insurance overhaul which Obamacare resembles, it was an error to design a “one-size-fits-all” national health insurance mandate as Obama did.

Romney said Massachusetts “teaches some important lessons some states are not going to want to follow.”

He said health insurance is more expensive in Massachusetts than in any other state and that “Texas and Minnesota and Montana” are not necessarily going to want to adopt such a costly plan.

The enrollment process for uninsured people under the Affordable Care Act has been plagued by software and data entry problems which led Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to offer an apology to a House committee in testimony last week.

Sebelius called the enrollment software problems a “debacle” and “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”

But in the past week the software issue has been overshadowed by the reports of thousands of Americans being told by their insurance companies that their policies can no longer cover them since they’re not in compliance with the benefits package defined by the Affordable Care Act.

Obama’s repeated promises in 2009 and 2010 -- that if a person liked the coverage he had, he could keep it -- have proven to be false.

Responding to Romney’s charges, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, said for people who are losing their current health insurance coverage, Patrick said in many cases that coverage was flawed to begin with.

“If you have the kind of health care that disappears when you need it most, the Affordable Care Act says that has to end,” Patrick said.

On ABC’s This Week, Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer discussed Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” by explaining that “if your plan has been downgraded or canceled, you can't” keep it.

But he argued, if Obama were to allow people “to have those plans be downgraded, or insurance companies to keep selling barebones plans… he'd be violating even more important promise to the American people, that everyone would have a guarantee to access of quality affordable health insurance.”

He said the plans that are now being discontinued “were cut-rate plans that didn't cover hospitalization, doctor's visits” and therefore people will be better off being covered by a more costly and more inclusive plans.

Pfeiffer said that under Obamacare, in the individual market for insurance, 50 percent of the uninsured “are going to be able to get access to tax subsidies to make their plans cheaper. And most of them will get a better plan for less for the same or less.”

Addressing the flaws in the site, Patrick said, “The website is imperfect. That’ll get fixed. I’m confident of that.” He added, “If the website is permanently flawed, we’ve got a serious problem,” but Patrick again said the software will be fixed.

“The obvious benefit of the website is to be able to compare plans, to shop, because as you shop, you save, and that’s why it’s urgent that the president get it fixed,” the Massachusetts governor said.

“What this whole situation has produced is actually a favor for the White House and for the president,” Patrick contended. “I and many others have been saying the president needs to be out talking about the fundamental good that the Affordable Care Act does for people. And this is provoking him to do so – and I think that’s a great thing.”

Another provision of the Affordable Care Act was in the news Friday as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that a small family-owned business may sue to assert the owners’ religious objections to the Obamacare requirement that employer-provided insurance pay for Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, and sterilization procedures.

The ruling temporarily barred the Obama administration from enforcing the birth control mandate.

That case and a number of related lawsuits in other federal appeals courts are likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

In his Meet the Press interview, when asked about potential GOP presidential contenders for 2016, Romney spoke highly of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who seems headed for re-election on Tuesday. “He’s a very popular governor in a very blue state – that’s the kind of popularity and the kind of track record that the Republican Party needs if we’re going to take back the White House.”

Romney also praised his 2012 running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

But he omitted Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas from his impromptu list of 2016 GOP hopefuls. Asked about that omission, Romney said, “I’m not going to disqualify anybody but I think I’ve indicated some of the names I think are most effective in becoming elected….”