Other Massachusetts health care experts call Romney dishonest about his record

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Mitt Romney. (mittromney.com)
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On a conference call this afternoon, former Massachusetts secretary for human services Phil Johnston said Mitt Romney is "really not being truthful" when he claims to have opposed, and tried to repeal, a contraception mandate during his time as Massachusetts governor.

"During the four years Governor Romney served, he was totally silent about that issue," said Johnston. "Most notably, his signature initiative as governor, which all of us supported and worked on, which we now affectionately refer to as 'Romneycare,' left the contraception mandate in place, was actually part of that legislation which he signed. So when he says that he opposes the contraception mandate and tried to repeal it—which apparently he's been saying the last day or two as this issue has become very public—he's really not being truthful."

Perhaps not coincidentally, the comments echoed earlier criticisms of Romney by Jonathan Gruber, a key architect of both Romney's health plan and President Obama's, who told me in November that the former governor was lying about the differences between his plan and the president's.

(Gruber said at the time that the Romney and Obama plans were based on "the same fucking bill.")

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Today's call, which also included Harvard professor of public health John McDonough, was organized by the Democratic National Committee to rebut Romney's recent criticism that the Obama administration was forcing religious organizations to "violate their conscience" by requiring affiliated non-profits like hospitals and colleges to provide contraception as part of their health care plans.

Johnston said that the original mandate to require employers to cover contraceptives was signed into law by then-governor Jane Swift in 2002, and neither Johnston nor McDonough remembered Romney ever publicly opposing the bill. McDonough said that Romney's original 2005 proposal to expand coverage to the uninsured would have eliminated all mandatory benefits, but that the bill he eventually signed in 2006 included them.

(The mandatory benefit that was generally singled out for criticism, according to McDonough, was infertility treatment, which was often criticized as too expensive to be provided by the state.)

McDonough said there was a "pretty consistent level of support for contraceptive coverage as a mandated benefit throughout the Romney era as governor," and that Romney had effectively extended contraceptive coverage as a result of his law.

"The uninsured individuals who got access to health insurance because of the health-reform law that Governor Romney signed all got access to contraceptive coverage as part of that new health insurance coverage," he said.