On Meet the Press yesterday, Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney assured host David Gregory that just because he's promised to repeal ObamaCare doesn't mean he hates every single bit of the law.
"There are a number of things that I like about health care reform that I'm going to put in place," he said, one of which is "to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage." Watch the clip below:
This might be worrying to those who suspect that Romney, who continues to tout the nearly identical health reform he passed while governor of Massachusetts, is not terribly committed to repealing the health law and would rather tinker with it. But mostly I think it should be worrying to people who suspect that Romney is evasive regarding the truth about what he would do in office.
It turns out that when Mitt Romney says there are "things that I like about health care reform that I'm going to put in place," what he actually means is: there are some provisions in current law that I'm not going to get rid of.
Just a few hours after Romney went on Meet the Press, a spokesperson clarified to NRO that "Governor Romney will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited." But a version of this is already law, and has been since 1996, when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act forbid insurers from denying new coverage to those who became uninsured briefly after a long period of coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.
The Romney camp says there's nothing to see here; after all, Romney has publicly supported HIPPA's continuity of coverage rules before. And perhaps Romney could modify those provisions, which some believe have a number of undesirable loopholes.
But yesterday Romney was not merely saying that he supports those provisions. Instead he said that "I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform" because there are "things I like about health care reform" that "I would put in place." It's hard to interpret any other way than as a declaration that he wants to keep provisions from ObamaCare.
But that's not what he would do. The plan to "make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage" that he goes on to mention is, according to his advisers' clarification, not a provision from ObamaCare, nor even a provision he'd have to "put in place" at all. It's part of a seperate law.
The story is similar for another provision Romney mentioned. Asked about ObamaCare's rule allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents' insurance, Romney said that he wants to "assure that the marketplace" sells plans that cover dependents up to "whatever age" a buyer might like. But even though he's framed his response in the context of keeping the good parts of ObamaCare, his campaign has confirmed that he's not actually talking about keeping the parts of ObamaCare that require insurers to sell those policies.
Don't get me wrong: It would be a problem to adopt ObamaCare's preexisting condition rules, because, as we've seen numerous times at the state level, without a mandate, the result is a health insurance death spiral, in which the healthy wait to purchase insurance, leaving only the sickest, most expensive patients in the pool — and skyrocketing premiums as a result. Romney knows this, which is presumably why he coupled the preexisting condition rules in RomneyCare, the Massachusetts health reform, with a mandate. But of course, by the time you've gone that far you may as well just leave ObamaCare in place and tweak it a bit. Which is probably what Romney would prefer to do. He won't say that, though. And as usual, on policy, he's trying to say a lot without saying much at all, except that he likes things that everybody likes, and he wouldn't do anything that anybody doesn't.