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Romney offers clue on coverage for preexisting conditions

October 11, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Mitt Romney steps from his campaign plane in Asheville, N.C.
Mitt Romney steps from his campaign plane in Asheville, N.C. (Evan Vucci / Associated…)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Providing medical insurance coverage for people with preexisting health conditions is among the more popular provisions of President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Mitt Romney, while pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare, has repeatedly said that he would require insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, provided the customers previously had continuous coverage.

Romney has never said what he would do with people who did not have continuous coverage, but he offered a new clue in an interview that was published Thursday.

“Romney, in a meeting with The Dispatch’s editorial board, said those who currently don’t carry insurance would have a chance to make a ‘choice’ to be covered without fear of being denied,” according to the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.

But, according to the paper, he did not elaborate on how these people would gain coverage.

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“… he didn’t specify how long Americans would have to make that choice, or what would happen to those who chose not to be covered and later fell sick,” the paper wrote.

The Romney campaign declined to elaborate on what the nominee meant.

Romney has a long, somewhat tangled history with healthcare reform. He has increasingly cited his pride in the healthcare overhaul he instituted while governor of Massachusetts. But that plan is an anathema to many conservatives because it is viewed as the model of Obama’s plan and penalizes those who can afford insurance but decline to obtain it. Romney has long argued that his plan is constitutional because it is administered by the states, while Obama’s is not because it is federal program.

In the Dispatch interview, Romney also repeated that people without insurance who need immediate care receive it at the emergency room.

“We don’t have a setting across this country where if you don’t have insurance, we just say to you, ‘Tough luck, you’re going to die when you have your heart attack,’ ” he said, according to the article. “No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

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Emergency room treatment is far costlier than preventive care, and is funded by taxpayers.

Liberals seized upon the statement that no one dies in American because they don’t have coverage.

“It’s hard to imagine a statement more out-of-touch with the struggles families face, or the realities of America’s healthcare system, than Gov. Romney’s statement that no one dies from lack of health insurance,” said Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, in a statement. "In fact, at least 26,000 Americans die prematurely each year because they don’t have health insurance.”

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seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema

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