Mitt Romney To Lay Out Health Reform Plan Thursday

ABC's John Berman ( @johnsberman ) and Amy Walter ( @amyewalter ) report:

Former Massachusetts Governor and likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will outline his approach to health care reform in Michigan Thursday, announcing a plan to “repeal and replace” the law that Democrats enacted last year.

As governor in 2006, Romney signed Massachusetts’ bipartisan health reform law. It required everyone in the state to obtain health insurance and became a model for the controversial law that national Democrats enacted for the entire country in 2010.

The speech Thursday at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center will focus on “rolling out his plan to repeal and replace” the national health care law, according to one senior aide.

Romney’s greatest hurdle as a Republican presidential candidate will be squaring his status as the father of health reform in Massachusetts with the near-unanimous opposition the national law faces among Republicans.

A Romney adviser tells ABC News that he will address his own record on health care reform but that it won’t be a major focus of his speech. While Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has apologized for his past support for legislation to enact a “Cap and Trade” system to cut down on carbon emissions, calling it a “clunker”, don’t expect Romney to do the same on health care reform. Look for Romney to continue his federalism defense: the plan he enacted was right for Massachusetts, but not for the entire country.

The most recent Kaiser Health Tracking poll from April found that 52 percent of Americans wanted to either expand the health care law or leave it as is, while 35 percent said they wanted Congress to repeal it and replace it with a Republican alternative or simply repeal it without an alternative. Overall, just 15 percent preferred the repeal and replace option.

Why do this now? With the race and the field still undefined, this is Romney’s best opportunity to deal with his biggest liability before all the klieg lights and cameras start rolling 24-7. Bottom line: he was going to have to give this speech at some point, better to do it when few people are paying much attention. And, it means that he doesn’t spend the next seven months having to answer the question: “When are you going to give the health care speech?”

Read more on how health reform affects Mitt Romney’s potential candidacy.

Romney will try to differentiate him from the rest of the Republican field by offering something concrete with which to replace the health reform law.

A press release lays out his “2012 Principles for Health Reform”:

• Restore to the states the responsibility and resources to care for their poor, uninsured, and chronically ill. • Give a tax deduction to those who buy their own health insurance, just like those who buy it through their employers. • Streamline the federal regulation of healthcare. • Reduce the influence of lawsuits on medical practice and costs. • Make healthcare more like a consumer market and less like a government program.

Recently Romney has said President Obama and Democrats should have worked better with Republicans to enact their law and argued that the national health reform law costs too much money.

"He does me the great favor of saying that I was the inspiration for his plan,” Romney said of President Obama at a speech in Las Vegas last month . “If that’s the case, why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you ask what was wrong? Why didn’t you ask if this was an experiment, what worked and what didn’t?” He continued, “And I’d have told him, ‘what you’re doing, Mr. President, is going to bankrupt us.' We can’t spend more money.”

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