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October 11, 2011 8:35 AM Romney’s team advised Obama’s team on health law

By Steve Benen

White House officials, including President Obama, occasionally like to mention how much they agree with Mitt Romney on health care policy. David Axelrod recently said of the Republican frontrunner, “We got some good ideas from him.”

How literal was this sentiment? Michael Isikoff reports this morning on the direct role that Romney’s health care policy team played in helping shape Obama’s reform plan.

Newly obtained White House records provide fresh details on how senior Obama administration officials used Mitt Romney’s landmark health-care law in Massachusetts as a model for the new federal law, including recruiting some of Romney’s own health care advisers and experts to help craft the act now derided by Republicans as “Obamacare.”

The records, gleaned from White House visitor logs reviewed by NBC News, show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006, when the Republican presidential candidate was governor of Massachusetts. One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.

“The White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts,” said Jon Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney administration on health care and who attended five meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. “They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model.”

We’ve known from the beginning that Romney’s Massachusetts plan helped create the framework for the White House’s policy. Indeed, the so-called “RomneyCare” law is practically indistinguishable from the Affordable Care Act, including the controversial individual mandate.

But Isikoff’s report adds a new wrinkle. It was merely embarrassing for Romney when the president and West Wing officials would say they were inspired by the former governor’s health care law, but the realization that Romney’s own policy team was brought in to help point Obama and his aides in the right direction is more problematic for the GOP presidential candidate. It makes it that much more difficult for Romney to distance himself from the health care law the right hates with the heat of a thousand suns, and arguably strengthens the case that Romney has part-ownership over the national reform law.

In effect, Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republicans call “ObamaCare.” It was Romney’s policy that created the blueprint for Obama’s policy, and it was Romney’s team that served as advisers to Obama’s team.

Given that there’s a Republican debate tonight, I’d be surprised if we don’t hear quite a bit more about this from Romney’s GOP rivals.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • DAY on October 11, 2011 8:46 AM:

    China invented black powder, and made fireworks.
    Europe took the formula, and changed the name to gunpowder.

  • montana on October 11, 2011 8:54 AM:

    On the other hand, that's not great news for Obama. There has always been a theatrical scrim of sorts between the White House and insurance reform, as if healthcare legislation only went as far as light weights like Baucus could get it.

    If Obama was so deeply involved with the process as this suggests, why didn't the nation get better results? Why was the public option, something that would have really helped lower costs, taken off the table from the beginning?

  • Unstable Isotope on October 11, 2011 8:55 AM:

    I wonder if anyone has passed this info to Perry's team...

    For the first time I can say with all sincerity that I look forward to tonight's GOP debate.

  • efgoldman on October 11, 2011 8:58 AM:

    This will give Romney pretty severe agita for the next eight months or so, but if he survives and gets the nomination, it might help in the general to remove the crazystain of our current GOBP.

  • FRP on October 11, 2011 9:01 AM:

    When Jim Nabors would have scripts that required him to repeat surprise , sometimes fatally , as I recall dying many times of frustration , it turns our that the fatally flawed scripts had an intended audience .
    These will be the upright citizen legislators whose rectitude can only be imagined , never experienced , drop into a hornswoggled coda of

    "Who could a known"

    Or some such starched collar astonished amazement .

    What will be the regrouping as Americans everywhere (there too) gape at the facts which stand in true Dada styled enthusiasm for radical departure as an end supporting the dubious means of destabilizing representative democracy .

    Will the flies on the walls be to astonished to report back if there has been any profiteering from the starched white shirts of rectitude ?
    Will they find erstwhile mumblers of astonishing self promoted virtue thumbing their schnozzes at logic , science , physics , Jesus , readin riting and rithmetic , fer muny ?
    Tooo funnny
    not

  • John Dillinger on October 11, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Of course, the real story here is that the powers that be in the Republican party not only did a 180 on one of their own policy ideas, but proceeded to gin up all those ridiculous townhall outbursts to stop the legislation. You'd think that would lead the news media to question the Republicans' sincerity regarding ANY topic of public policy. But you'd be mistaken.

  • FRP on October 11, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Day , you may be a film buff so until I know better I will unashamedly promote a film .
    Divine Weapon (First Print Edition) DVD (2008)
    An amusing mix of patriotism , romance , novelty , and history .

  • SteveT on October 11, 2011 9:17 AM:

    The White House's campaign strategy of undermining Romney in the hope that Republicans chose someone really extreme for them to run against makes me very nervous. I'm old enough to remember how happy Democrats were when Jimmy Carter faced the "unelectable" Ronald Reagan back in 1980.

    I could call this a "hail Mary" strategy, but when you throw a "hail Mary" pass in football the worst that could happen is your team will lose a game. With President Perry we could lose the whole freakin' country.

  • Danp on October 11, 2011 9:17 AM:

    the direct role that Romney’s health care policy team played in helping shape Obama’s reform plan.

    I'm sure Tom Freidman would have an interesting take on this, since it doesn't exactly fit in with his narrative.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on October 11, 2011 9:19 AM:

    I wonder if anyone has passed this info to Perry's team...
    For the first time I can say with all sincerity that I look forward to tonight's GOP debate.

    Romney was for, for letting his advisers, before he was against before letting his advisers for. Now he says he's against Obamacare. Which one is it Mitt?

    I look forward to hearing Perry the wordsmith as well.

  • T2 on October 11, 2011 9:51 AM:

    "If Obama was so deeply involved with the process as this suggests, why didn't the nation get better results?"
    The short answer to this: most of the facets of ACA have not kicked in yet. It is a long term solution to big problems...not a quick fix.

  • Grumpy on October 11, 2011 9:57 AM:

    John Dillinger: "the real story here is that the powers that be in the Republican party not only did a 180 on one of their own policy ideas, but proceeded to gin up all those ridiculous townhall outbursts to stop the legislation."

    Exactly. In a rational world, the Republican roots of Obama's health care reform would not discredit Republicans but would rebut the lie that Obama is a radical socialist. But sometimes cognitive dissonance falls on the silly side of the fence.

  • FRP on October 11, 2011 10:21 AM:

    ...But sometimes cognitive dissonance falls on the silly side of the fence ...

    Which is well and fine until the itty bitty white lies turnout to be a simple sneering humour , at the supposed gullibility of anyone who opposes the crony capitalist engineering of state treasure .
    The repetition of non starters as the only basis of negotiation , 3 amendments > 5 amendments > 7 amendments , no nine ! Only tends to focus the mind that we are dealing with an ambushing , deceptive party at war with Americans .

  • Danny Gail McElrath on October 11, 2011 10:32 AM:

    Well, to me, this explains very well why Obama tossed out any discussion of single payer, threw away the public option, didn't even try to include lifting the income limit on Medicare contributions, never considered negotiated drug costs, and we ended up with such a travesty of health care reform. What a sham!

  • Rich on October 11, 2011 1:17 PM:

    Of course, they would have talked to Romney's advisors. Yawn. They talked to a lot of people. I wish they had talked to more people who advocated the single payer option. But they talked with a lot of different people, not just the people who had advised Romney.

  • Sarabeth Guthberg on October 11, 2011 2:19 PM:

    In effect, Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republicans call "ObamaCare."

    Surely, it's worse than that? Obamacare has two daddies.

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