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Romney blasts Obama health law as ‘a frustrating embarrassment’

Several hours before President Obama arrived in Boston to deliver a health care speech, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said Wednesday the president failed to learn lessons from the Bay State and ridiculed his federal law as “a frustrating embarrassment.”

Obama this afternoon is planning to deliver a speech at historic Faneuil Hall, in the same room where Romney signed the state’s groundbreaking law in 2006 with the late senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat, looking on.

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“In the years since the Massachusetts health care law went into effect nothing has changed my view that a plan crafted to fit the unique circumstances of a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country,” Romney said in a statement released on Wednesday morning by his Boston private-investment office.

“Beyond that, had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment,” he added. “Health reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally.”

Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee who was defeated by Obama, made health care a signature issue during the campaign. He criticized Obama’s federal law, even as he touted the success of the Massachusetts state law.

Obama was expected to highlight the bipartisan support behind the Massachusetts law, which Romney signed in 2006. But David Simas, a top White House adviser, said Tuesday on a conference call that Romney was not invited to Obama’s Faneuil Hall event.

In the months since the election, White House officials have pointed to their victory in the election as a sign that the American public supports the president’s vision on health care – not Romney’s.

But in recent weeks, with enrollment for health care plagued by glitches with the HealthCare.gov website, Obama again is on the defensive and will address some of those problems in the afternoon speech.

This week, the administration has had to deflect complaints that hundreds of thousands of Americans are receiving notices canceling coverage, running counter to Obama’s pledge in 2009 that, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” Those who are receiving the cancellation notices – about 5 percent of the country -- currently have bare-bones, individual plans that do not meet new minimum standards.

On Wednesday morning, Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius apologized for the rollout of the health care enrollment process.

“I am as frustrated and angry as anyone with the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov,” Sebelius said in an opening statement before a congressional hearing.

To Americans who have struggled to sign up for health care coverage because of a faulty government website, she said, “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems, and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site.”

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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