Gingrich 'agreed entirely' with Romney healthcare reform goal in 2006

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich once praised rival Mitt Romney's Massachusetts healthcare overhaul as holding "tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system."

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Gingrich offered the favorable assessment of the healthcare law Romney signed into law as governor of Massachusetts in an April 2006 newsletter published by his Center for Health Transformation. 

"We agree entirely with Gov. Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans," the newsletter says.

Gingrich also offered a strong endorsement in the newsletter of the state’s requirement that everyone have insurance.

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"We also believe strongly that personal responsibility is vital to creating a 21st Century Intelligent Health System. Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers," the newsletter said.

Gingrich spokesman R.J. Hammond said the newsletter was not an endorsement and noted that it suggested several changes to the law, including waiving the insurance mandate for people who earn $54,000 or less per year. 

The revelation could harm Gingrich's efforts to bolster his conservative credentials by moving away from some of his past positions, including support for an individual mandate to have insurance.

Asked about the newsletter Tuesday, Romney said Gingrich is shifting his rhetoric to suit his presidential ambitions. 

“I'm familiar with the fact that [Gingrich] supported individual mandates in the past and was supportive of generally of the plan in Massachusetts, and he's changed his view in the election year,” Romney said, according to CBS News.

Gingrich has been a harsh critic of the healthcare law that passed when Romney was governor and has tried to tie Romney to President Obama's national healthcare reform law.  

The GOP rivals are sparring over the healthcare law in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. Romney vows to repeal "ObamaCare" in a new ad that is airing across the state.

—Last updated at 11:33 a.m.

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