In a Sunday interview, Mitt Romney spoke out for a popular provision in the Affordable Care Act that guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But his campaign later clarified that he supports a scaled back version of the policy with much weaker protections.
“I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place,” the Republican nominee said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage.”
His campaign later told TPM he wasn’t signaling a shift in policy and was instead referring to his existing stance in favor of protections on preexisting conditions only for those with continuous insurance coverage — not for first-time or returning buyers.
“He has a comprehensive reform plan; for instance, his own plan will deal with preexisting conditions but not in the same way that Obamacare does,” a campaign aide said.
Details of Romney’s plan are scant. For months he has sought to paint himself as supportive of helping people with preexisting conditions. But he’s caught in a predicament: enacting a robust guarantee would require maintaining other major market-driven provisions in the Affordable Care Act in order to be financially viable — which is unacceptable to the Republican base. But supporting a weaker policy would invariably leave many sick Americans out in the cold.
The Republican nominee’s remarks Sunday served to position him favorably on the issue, but his campaign’s clarification to reporters later affirmed that he still supports the scaled-back policy he unveiled earlier this summer.
“So let’s say someone has been continuously insured and they develop a serious condition,” Romney explained on the campaign trail in June. “And let’s say they lose their job or they change jobs, they move and they go to a new place. I don’t want them to be denied insurance because they’ve got some preexisting condition.”
Current law has some protections for sick people in between jobs, but few for those who buy insurance on the individual market. The ACA provision takes effect in 2014.
Although Romney also signaled sympathy for a part of the law that permits young people to remain on a parent’s policy until 26, he was singing a different tune months ago. In July, he told the Toledo Blade that he doesn’t believe that coverage guarantee be required of insurance companies.
“That’s already in the marketplace,” he said. “United Health Care and others are offering that product, so it’s voluntary. It does not require federal legislation. It’s already in the market.”
In response to Romney’s remarks, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said voters should not trust the Republican candidate to save or replace any provision in the law.
“Mitt Romney has only one health care plan: to repeal Obamacare,” Smith told TPM. “And if he had his way, insurance companies would once again be allowed to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions, charge women higher premiums than they charge men for the same coverage, and kick kids off their parents’ plans when they graduate from college or high school. His promises today should be seen for what they are: a cynical attempt to mislead the American people on the devastating impact his policies would actually have.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.