(WASHINGTON) — To conservatives, the biggest strike against Mitt Romney is the health care plan he put in place in Massachusetts, but Newt Gingrich lavished praise on Romney’s plan after it was passed in 2006.
“We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans,” Gingrich wrote in 2006.
And, Gingrich wrote, the key to achieving that goal was doing what Romney did in Massachusetts: Requiring everybody who could afford it to buy health insurance. In fact, Gingrich makes an impassioned case for the so-called individual mandate — which is also at the center of President Obama’s health plan — on conservative grounds.
“We also believe strongly that personal responsibility is vital to creating a 21st Century Intelligent Health System,” Gingrich wrote in the memo, which was found on an old Gingrich website by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski. “Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers.”
Gingrich had some criticisms of the Massachusetts plan — including what he called the state’s over-regulation of health insurers — but overall, he supported it.
“Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system,” Gingrich wrote.
Like Romney, Gingrich’s past positions — including a now-infamous commercial about global warming with Rep. Nancy Pelosi — have come back to haunt him in the eyes of potential conservative voters. Considering that repealing President Obama’s health care plan is high atop the wish list for conservatives — who feel it’s an unconstitutional burden on an already cash-strapped government — the Romney memo could prove damaging to Gingrich.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN
Jose Pagliery, CNN
Dan Berman, CNN