Romney Wins Michigan, Arizona; Rivals Press Health Policy Barbs

In exit polls, some GOP voters said they were concerned about Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's health care policies. Rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich offered parallels between the federal health law and the measure Romney signed while governor of Massachusetts.

The Washington Post: Michigan Voters Reveal Romney's Strengths And Weaknesses
But about 14 percent of voters said that abortion was their top concern — a larger proportion than in any of the other states that have held primaries. Of those voters, 77 percent backed Santorum, who has made social issues a centerpiece of his campaign. … Still, Spaniola said, his support of Romney was tenuous because of the health-care overhaul he backed in Massachusetts. "You have to send someone to Washington who knows how to run an economy, and Mitt's the guy. But I hope he does what he says. I'm worried about him with this health-care stuff. It's scary" (Somashekhar and Henderson, 2/28).

Kaiser Health News has video clips of the health policy references that were included in speeches last night by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

Los Angeles Times: Santorum Puts Positive Spin On Second-Place Finish In Michigan Primary
Drawing cheers, Santorum pledged to repeal Obama's signature healthcare law, describing it as a broad and dangerous takeover of Americans' liberty. ... In his sole mention of Romney by name, Santorum linked the healthcare plan the former Massachusetts governor crafted while leading that state with Obama's federal plan, saying Americans needed "not Romneycare or Obamacare but a program that's based upon you, called 'Youcare,' because that's what we believe in America." Santorum, while calling for reducing federal debt and deficits, called for transferring all entitlement programs to the states, a statement that presumably would include programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare (Mehta, 2/28).

The Washington Post: Santorum's Scrappy Rhetoric A Campaign Staple
Santorum focused almost exclusively in his election-night remarks on promises to cut government spending, repeal Democratic health-care reform and revive the manufacturing sector. And for the first time, he stressed the role in his life of working women, including his mother, whom he said made more money than his father, a rarity in her generation (Helderman, 2/28).

The New York Times' The Caucus Blog: Santorum Pivots Ahead To Ohio
Mr. Obama, he said, had trampled on religious freedom through the administration's ruling that church-run institutions must offer contraception in health plans, even if it violates their beliefs. …. From an attack on the president, he pivoted to one on Mitt Romney, saying that because Mr. Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts was a model for Mr. Obama's plan, he would not be a credible opponent to Mr. Obama in the general election. "Here's the problem, folks," Mr. Santorum said. "We need to have a candidate who can take President Obama on in this biggest issue of the day, of government control of our lives" (Gabriel, 2/28).

The Fiscal Times: Taxes to Abortion: Where Romney and Santorum Stand
Romney plans to cut $500 billion in spending from the federal budget by 2016 by eliminating or reducing numerous government programs including Obama's health care reforms ... Starting in 2022, he would let seniors choose between the current Medicare fee-for-service model and receiving a stipend to buy private insurance. ... Santorum wants to cut federal spending by $5 trillion over five years by capping government spending at 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product. He would do that by... repealing the health care reform law, and converting Medicare from a government-run program to a privately operated program, while providing seniors with small subsidies or payments in order to purchase services (Pianin and Hirsch, 2/28). 

The Associated Press: Gingrich Targeting 'Super Tuesday' States
At an earlier rally in Rome, Ga., Gingrich made more pointed remarks about Romney, calling him a moderate "pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase governor" who would hurt the party's chances against Obama. "I don't believe a moderate can beat President Obama. We tried a moderate in 1996, we lost badly. We tried a moderate in 2008, we lost badly," Gingrich said. Referring to separate health plans backed by both men, Gingrich said: "I don't think there is enough difference between Romneycare and Obamacare to have a debate. I think it would be silly" (Thomas, 2/28).

Meanwhile, thoughts from a well-known Romney policy advisor -

Modern Healthcare: Leavitt Sees Use For Reform Law
A senior healthcare adviser to Mitt Romney said a Republican HHS secretary could use the 2010 federal healthcare law to improve the nation's healthcare. Mike Leavitt, the former secretary of HHS under President George W. Bush and current Romney adviser, said the federal government's historic $15 trillion debt will drive "hard" changes in healthcare system to reduce its costs. Those changes, including moving across healthcare from a fee-for-service model to outcomes based payment, may be facilitated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Romney has repeatedly urged repeal and replacement of the law (Daly, 2/28).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.