Last weekend Mitt Romney left grasping liberals and panicky conservatives aghast over some harmless Obamacare musings on Meet the Press. Those who are upset with what Romney said not only equated the generic term “health care reform” with Obamacare, but they failed to accurately and thoroughly grasp the entirety of his statement.
When David Gregory asked Romney what he would do with some of the more popular provisions of Obamacare, Romney replied, “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 media went crazy. First John Roberts, now Mitt Romney. Everywhere conservatives are wiping the scales from their eyes to behold the glories of Obamacare!
The Hill’s Brent Budowsky trumpeted, “Romney praises and endorses ObamaCare key achievements! Because of President Obama’s leadership, and now with Gov. Romney’s full support, folks with pre-existing conditions will be covered by insurance, and countless kids will be covered by the insurance of their parents.”
Other liberals assumed Romney was clumsily flip-flopping. Steve Benen on MSNBC’s The Maddow Blog claimed that Romney was “trying (and failing) to Etch-A-Sketch on health care.”
CNN chided Romney’s “tap dance around Obamacare.” Froma Harrop caroled that “Romney Suffers From Pre-existing Positions.” (Next liberals will be tittering, “Romney Suffers From Premature Articulation.”)
There’s just one problem: Romney never actually said any of the things the media have accused him of saying.
Note what Romney said: “There are a number of things that I like in health care reform,” not “There are a number of things that I like in Obamacare.”
Romney said, “[There are things] that I’m going to put in place,” not “[There are things] that I’m going to keep [from Obamacare].”
Romney said, “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” not “I’m not getting rid of all of Obamacare.”
“Health care reform” and “Obamacare” are synonymous only in Democrats’ stunted imaginations.
Any laissez-faire capitalist knows that there are free-market ways of achieving the health care provisions Romney cited without unleashing a leviathan like Obamacare on the nation.
Denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, as Obamacare makes it. Coverage can be pinned to requirements that policyholders meet by acting responsibly before they lose insurance. Under our current system, people with preexisting conditions can legally receive coverage for months after a job loss if they have maintained insurance up to that point, and can then transfer their insurance intact to a new employer.
Coverage for those with preexisting conditions can be made limited or partial—depending on the consistency with which one has retained coverage in the past—rather than entirely paid for or entirely denied.
Individuals without insurance can enter high-risk pools that require higher premiums, but give coverage for costly care resulting from preexisting conditions.
There are a million ways the health insurance industry and its potential customers can experiment with coverage policies. Such plans require the sustained focus and rational choice of numerous actors free from one-size-fits-all legislative mandates—which is why a big-government statist like Obama will do everything in his power to prevent such arrangements from ever being established.
Note that most media outlets omitted the closing sentence of Romney’s remarks: “I also want individuals to be able to buy insurance, health insurance, on their own as opposed to only being able to get it on a tax advantage basis through their company.” Such an innovation would help resolve the problem of denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, because it would increase health insurance portability for those who move from being employed to unemployed or self-employed.
Over the past four years, conservative politicians who find it intuitively obvious that government should stay out of health care have found themselves forced to promote “health care reform” policies so liberals can’t accuse them of “not caring.”
But there are plenty of health care reform proposals that would reduce government intervention and free up the private market’s creative forces. This is what conservatives have been defending when they talk about health care reform—not raiding Medicare to let 26-year-old basement-dwellers stay on their parents’ insurance.
Perhaps Romney should be clearer in distinguishing between free market reforms and government mandates. But sorry, Democrats—our nominee, like a majority of Americans, will remain opposed to Obamacare until the day it’s repealed.