(Reuters) - Democrats in at least three states are marking the fifth anniversary on Tuesday of the health care reforms Republican Mitt Romney helped pass when he was governor of Massachusetts.
The events were designed to remind voters of Romney's role in what is seen as the prototype for President Barack Obama's health policy -- a day after Romney announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a 2012 presidential run.
At the same time, studies show "Romneycare," reviled by most Republicans in Congress, has met many of its goals and is relatively popular in the state.
"Mitt Romney is nothing short of a founding father of modern health reform," Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said at an event in Concord that featured a thank you card and a birthday cake.
Iowa's Democratic Party was blunt: "His dedication to a quality health care system laid the groundwork for President Obama's Affordable Care Act." And Democrats in Massachusetts mounted a "Thank You, Mitt" video on youtube.com.
Republicans have vowed to overturn Obama's program. The Massachusetts version is seen by some conservatives as evidence Romney is a RINO -- a Republican in Name Only.
Romney made no reference to health care on Monday, when he launched his exploratory committee to raise money for a challenge to Obama in a video focused on job creation and the economy.
He has largely stood by his state health plan while criticizing Obama's national program and promising to repeal it, should he become president.
A 2010 survey from the Urban Institute showed that about two thirds of Massachusetts adults supported the state's health reforms, although some 20 percent reported having problems finding a doctor who would see them.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation on Tuesday also praised the reforms, with one major exception -- continued cost spirals.
Most employers believe the reforms have been good for the state, and most doctors believe the program improved, or did not affect, the quality of care, the group said.
Still, without intervention "per capita health care spending in Massachusetts is projected to nearly double by 2020," the foundation said.
Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick in February proposed cost-containment measures for the state's program. The state legislature has not yet taken up the measures.
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Reality television host and developer Donald Trump has risen to a tie for first among potential GOP presidential contenders, according to a new national poll.
Nineteen percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey that they are most likely to back Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. That put him in a tie at the top of the list with former Arkansas governor and 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee, who also received 19 percent support.
Rounding out the top five were former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 12 percent support, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 11 percent support and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also with 11 percent support. They were followed by Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 7 percent support and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 5 percent support.
Trump has risen ten points from a similar poll taken by the same organization last month.