Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gestures during a campaign… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
ORLANDO, Fla. -- With the Supreme Court on the verge of determining the fate of President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, Mitt Romney sought to position himself Tuesday as a champion of affordable coverage for the middle class.
In remarks to a few hundred supporters in the warehouse of an air-filter maker, Romney expanded on his pledge not just to repeal "Obamacare," but to replace it.
His proposals, which he first released last year, are less sweeping than the landmark healthcare reforms that he championed as governor of Massachusetts, where he extended coverage to the uninsured in part by requiring people to buy insurance. Nationally, he said, the free market should prevail.
"Free enterprise is the way America works," Romney said. "We need to apply that to healthcare."
Romney said he would provide a tax deduction to people who buy their own insurance; allow customers to buy policies across state lines; bar insurers from refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions; and leave coverage for the uninsured up to the states, using money from federal Medicaid block grants.
Romney's new emphasis on his proposals -- rather than just his vow to kill the federal healthcare law -- comes as the Supreme Court is about to put the issue back at the forefront of the presidential campaign. Obama has cited Romney's healthcare overhaul in Massachusetts as the inspiration for his own. But Romney has renounced the system that he supported in his home state as unsuitable for the nation as a whole.
Romney also renewed his effort to portray Obama as out of touch with working Americans, citing the president's comment in an Iowa TV interview on Monday that he could not explain why a local business would need to close shop as a result of the national healthcare law taking effect.
"It's not only bad policy, and bad for middle-income families, and bad for small business," Romney said. "It's simply unaffordable."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith responded in a written statement slamming Romney for advocating the repeal of key provisions of the healthcare law.
"This morning, Mitt Romney promised that if he's elected, insurance companies will be able to discriminate against Americans with preexisting conditions, charge women higher premiums than they charge men for the same coverage, and kick young adults off their parents' plans when they graduate high school or college," she said.
American families, she added, have been forced for too long to choose "between going bankrupt to afford the care they need or going without that care at all, and Mitt Romney wants to take us back to that time."
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