CNBC "Kudlow & Company" -Transcript
MR. KUDLOW: Governor Mitt Romney, presidential candidate for the GOP, he's got a new health care plan relying on free markets. But he does remove the mandate on individuals that he had when he was governor of Massachusetts. I asked him why when we talked yesterday.
(Begin videotaped interview.)
MR. ROMNEY: I didn't change my mind at all, Larry. What I said is that I'm going to allow each state to create their own program and that I would like the federal government to give each state the flexibility to create the program they think is best for their state. In my state of Massachusetts, I think the individual mandate will work. Time will tell. Other states may want to copy it. I'd applaud those that do or that come up with something they think is even better. The key is let the states make the decision. I would never have suggested that the federal government put in a place a one-size- fits-all program for all states. States are so different, and their populations are so different that we have to allow them to craft programs that work for their states. But I'm proud of what we did in Massachusetts. What we've proved is you can get insurance for all your citizens without a government takeover, without new taxes, without socialized medicine. And in my view, the course that I've laid out is the right course for America. It is not Hillary-care. It is a plan to get people insured and to have health insurance finally more affordable for Americans but without government play the heave hand that she would suggest.
MR. KUDLOW: Some people have said that the pay-or-play sanction on businesses in the Massachusetts state health care plan in effect was a de facto tax hike. Is that a mistake that you made, and you're not going to want to repeat that if you were elected president?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I didn't make that mistake. I vetoed it. It was overridden by the legislature. It's a pretty modest fee. I think it's $22 a month, so it's a tiny fee relative to providing health insurance. But the legislature put it in. I don't think they've collected $1 on it yet, so it's not a huge factor. And actually, the various industry groups in Massachusetts were not vehemently opposed. They all supported the bill when it was completed. But I think that was an error in the bill, and that's why I vetoed that provision.
MR. KUDLOW: And last one on this -- apparently, you have not included interstate health care insurance as part of your reform. A lot of people think interstate -- you know, if you're in Massachusetts, you should be able to go to California or Arizona or wherever to buy the lowest-cost health insurance that fits your needs. Why did you avoid that interstate reform?
MR. ROMNEY: You know, it's something we can consider down the road. I'd like to see states reform their own markets. What I'm a little fearful of is that if you say to people in New Jersey, for instance, hey, go ahead and buy a program from Nevada, that the people in New Jersey won't get the benefit of the directed networks, if you will, that come by having an in-state solution, number one. And number two, if you start having people buying products from around the country, you know what's going to happen next. Washington is going to say we need to regulate this market. We're going to have a Washington insurance regulation authority. They're now going to impose rules on insurance around the country. I think we'd go down a slippery slope once we let Washington get into the middle of this. So I'd like to see the states reform their markets. That's what my plan says. States, get your markets to a competitive level, and then I'd create federal incentives to do that. But if that didn't work, why, we could always consider letting people buy from across state lines.
MR. KUDLOW: Governor Romney, you're surging in the polls. I noticed, by the way, in the pay-for-play (in-trade ?) prediction markets, you have now moved comfortably into second place behind Rudy Giuliani. You had a nice win in the Iowa straw poll. Others are pointing to your poll improvements in South Carolina and Illinois and elsewhere. I guess my last question is, can a businessman, can a former successful financier become president?
MR. ROMNEY: I sure hope so! I'm working awful hard to make that the case, Larry. (Laughs.) I really think that people want to see that an individual has heart and passion, but they also understand the challenges that America faces. You understand this. We face some unprecedented challenges in this country -- economic, competitive challenges but also a challenge from global jihad. And then we have our own domestic spending problems, our oil problems. We're using too much foreign oil. Look, we've got real challenges in this country. People want somebody who's not just talk but that actually gets the job done. And in the private sector, if all you can do is talk, you lose your job. I've learned in the toughest part of our world how to get the job done.
MR. KUDLOW: Governor Mitt Romney, thank you for coming back on "Kudlow & Company." All the best, sir.
MR. ROMNEY: Thanks, Larry. Good to be with you.
(End videotaped interview.)
MR. KUDLOW: All right, there you have it. I thought he did an excellent job in all parts of that interview.