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Romney promises, then retracts, key aspects of healthcare reform

September 10, 2012|By David Lazarus
  • Republican nominee Mitt Romney seems to have embraced key aspects of President Obama's healthcare reform. Or has he?
Republican nominee Mitt Romney seems to have embraced key aspects of President… (Associated Press )

At first glance, it looked like Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had once again altered his position on healthcare reform.

"I’m not getting rid of all of healthcare reform," he said on "Meet the Press" over the weekend. "Of course, there are a number of things that I like in healthcare reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like."

Jeepers. Those are a couple of biggies under Obamacare. Has Romney seen the light?

Maybe not so much.

Just hours after the program, the Romney campaign issued the following clarification:

"In a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for," according to an unnamed aide to the GOP candidate.

The aide emphasized that Romney "was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features."

Now that's a significantly different critter.

First of all, there's already huge demand for coverage of pre-existing conditions, and insurers simply don't offer that product. And there's a good reason: They lose a lot of money when people come knocking with costly medical conditions. Better from a business perspective to slam the door in such people's faces.

And you can't require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions unless you increase the size of the risk pool through some mechanism like an individual mandate. Otherwise people will simply wait until they get sick before seeking coverage.

Romney would apparently make allowances for people with pre-existing conditions who have had continuous coverage in the past. But that doesn't do anything for the millions of people who currently are uninsured because they've lost their job or can't afford coverage. So we're basically no better off than we were before.

Meanwhile, what's he mean by allowing people to stay on family insurance plans "to whatever age they might like"? Obamacare sets an age cap of 26. Is Romney saying he'd be more flexible?

No. As the campaign made clear, Romney isn't actually saying he'd require insurers "to offer those particular features." The market, again, would somehow work its magic, even though we haven't seen any such pixie dust for decades.

Now, I'm not saying that Romney used a national TV appearance to lie to the American people and then covered his tracks with a sneaky, after-the-fact "clarification" that contradicted everything he'd promised.

I'm saying ...

Well, yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying. But I reserve the right to clarify my comments later.

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