Mitt Romney’s Back and Forth on Obamacare

by Benjamin Studebaker

Unsurprisingly, the Romney campaign has been to this point vehemently against the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. It came as a bit of a shock then, when Romney had this exchange with Meet the Press‘s David Gregory:

GREGORY:  Well, let me ask you about a couple of specific areas.  On healthcare, you say that you would rescind the president’s healthcare plan on day one.  Does that mean that you’re prepared to say to Americans, young adults and those with pre-existing conditions, that they would no longer be guaranteed healthcare?

MR. ROMNEY:  Well, of course not.  I say we’re going to replace Obamacare.  And I’m replacing it with my own plan.  And, you know, even in Massachusetts where I was governor, our plan there deals with pre-existing conditions and with young people.  Everybody…

GREGORY:  So you’d keep that part of the federal plan?

MR. ROMNEY:  Well, I’m not getting rid of all of healthcare reform.  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– their family up to whatever age they might like.  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.

This has some interesting and contradictory implications, and those implications comprise today’s topic.

Romney seems to be saying that he’s going to keep provisions in the healthcare reform (or, at most, replace with similar or identical provisions) protecting insurance customers with pre-existing medical conditions. The problem here is that it is impossible for private health insurance companies to remain profitable if they must insure even uneconomical cases unless they also have the opportunity to insure people who are inexpensive to insure as a counterbalance. This is the reason the individual mandate was put into Obamacare. In order to make it profitable for insurance companies to insure expensive cases, it is necessary to provide an equal or greater number of inexpensive cases as a counterbalance. The former policy necessarily demands the latter policy. Either Romney doesn’t understand this or Romney is deliberately misleading people into believing that it is possible to keep the fun, appealing part of Obamacare while dumbing the less popular mandate. I believe the latter is true, because Romney actually has a long history of supporting individual mandates on health insurance:

As Romney himself has said, his Massachusetts healthcare plan, commonly referred to as Romneycare, includes the very individual mandate that Romney proposes to eliminate. Economist Jonathan Gruber was involved in both Romneycare and Obamacare as a policy architect said of Romneycare and Obamacare:

they’re the same fucking bill…This is, to my mind, the most blatantly obvious case of politics trumping policy I’ve ever seen in my life. Because this is an idea, that four or five years ago, Republicans were touting. A guy from the Heritage Foundation spoke at the bill signing in Massachusetts about how good this bill was

The Heritage Foundation is a well-known right wing think tank. And yes, I’ve fact-checked it, that did in fact happen. Gruber also has this to say about the role the individual mandate plays in both bills:

The mandate is really the glue that holds this act together…You get rid of the mandate, it just becomes a big government expenditure, which will cover a bunch of people, and that’s great, and I’m all for spending money to do that. Then it just becomes standard old, ‘expand health care with the public money,’ nothing really innovative anymore.

The resultant “big government expenditure” is the amount of additional subsidising the government would have to do in order to keep insurance profitable while extending coverage for pre-existing conditions without an individual mandate.

Romney’s position on healthcare is, at minimum, contradictory, and more likely flat out disingenuous. Either Mitt Romney supports Obamacare or Mitt Romney is proposing an unworkable (or at least extremely expensive) alternative to make the government pay out large subsidies to insurance companies to cover patients with pre-existing conditions while avoiding the individual mandate. Yet, despite this, he hasn’t been called out by the media. The man is almost certainly lying, yet far too many voters remain blissfully unaware. It’s yet another example of misinformation and disinformation triumphing over empirical realities.