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Romney plays defense on health care

For Mitt Romney, the issue of health-care mandates just won't seem to go away.

In an interview on FOX News today, Romney was questioned about his apparent support for an individual health-care mandate -- even on the federal level -- during a 2008 Republican presidential debate.

Romney sidestepped the specific question on FOX and repeated his familiar line on the campaign trail: "I believe we should get rid of Obamacare," Romney responded. "It's a disaster."

His critics continue to point to that 2008 Republican presidential debate, in which Romney responded to Charlie Gibson's comment that Romney "backed away from mandates on a national basis" by saying, "No, no, I like mandates." 

MR. GIBSON: (Off mike) -- Governor Romney -- (off mike) -- mandate and that's an obstacle, although you've backed away from mandates on a national basis.

MR. ROMNEY: No, no, I like mandates. Do the mandates work? Mandates --

MR. THOMPSON: I beg your pardon? (Laughter.)

MR. ROMNEY: Let me --

MR. THOMPSON: I didn't know you were going to admit that.

MR. ROMNEY: Let me -- oh, absolutely.

MR. THOMPSON: You like mandates.

MR. ROMNEY: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred, which is this -- M

R. THOMPSON: And what did you come up with? (Laughter.)

And there's a 2009 USA Today op-ed, in which Romney wrote: "There’s a better way [on health care]. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it."

He went on to say in the op-ed, "First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages "free riders" to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others."

Today, Romney once again explained that he thinks the mandate helped solve the problem in Massachusetts but would be wrong to implement on a national level.

"I have allowed and agree that a state should have the capacity -- if it wants -- to have a health-care mandate.  We had that in my state," Romney said today. "Time and again, I've pointed out I'm not in favor of a health-care plan that includes a national mandate."

As Romney told Sean Hannity on his radio show last week, the primary reason he doesn't support the federal mandate is the 10th Amendment.

"Well there's something known as the Constitution, as you know, and the Constitution in the 10th Amendment says that powers not granted to the federal government are granted to or reserved by the states," Romney said. "So states have powers that the federal government does not have."

But Romney has also argued that his plan in Massachusetts was a 70-page bill compared to the national 2,700 page bill, and he says his state's health-care law didn't raise taxes, while the federal one did.

"[Obama] said he would cut taxes for middle income Americans," Romney said in Missouri this week.  "Your taxes down?  No. As a matter of fact, your costs have gone up in part because of Obamacare -- one of the worst ideas he came up with."