Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday delivered an unequivocal defense of the health-care plan he helped shepherd into law as governor, saying it had succeeded in covering the uninsured at a “modest” cost and was the right approach for the people who elected him.

At the same time, he sharply criticized the national health-care law that President Barack Obama has said was modeled on Mr. Romney’s, calling it a federal “power grab” and a “government takeover of health care.”

But Mr. Romney drew distinctions. He said his Massachusetts plan did not raise or create new taxes, as Mr. Obama’s did, nor did it cut coverage for seniors. The president’s plan cut funds for Medicare to help finance subsidies for individuals to buy private health plans.

Mr. Romney’s main defense was constitutional: Under the 10th Amendment, states have the power to experiment, as Massachusetts did.

Michael Franc, vice president of government studies at the Heritage Foundation, suggested that Mr. Romney’s defense of a state-imposed mandate, as opposed to Mr. Obama’s federally imposed one, may be lost on a lot of voters. “He is drawing a legitimate distinction,” Mr. Franc said. “But a lot of people aren’t going to see that distinction. For them, a mandate is a mandate.”

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