“If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.”—President Obama
At the debate last night, Mitt Romney promised to repeal Obamacare—but he didn’t lay out a single, specific idea to protect millions of Americans who are already benefiting from the law, or the millions more who will gain coverage in the years to come. And nowhere was his evasiveness more clear or more disappointing than when it came to the issue of covering people with pre-existing conditions.
Half of Americans under age 65 have a pre-existing health condition, and making sure they have access to health insurance was one of the President’s top priorities with Obamacare. Romney has pledged to do away with the comprehensive protections the health care law provides—saying he would repeal Obamacare and “kill it dead” on his first day in office.
Last night, he stood on the debate stage and told the country, “I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions.” But he simply wasn’t telling the truth. The plan he’s talking about only protects people who have been “continuously covered,” meaning that they haven’t had any gaps in health insurance coverage. As Romney explained in July, “People who have a pre-existing condition, who’ve been insured in the past are able to get insurance in the future.” Immediately after the debate, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom emphasized the same thing, saying, “What Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage.”
Since Romney’s plan only helps people who already have health insurance, it leaves a lot of people out. In fact, 89 million Americans have had a gap in health care coverage. That means Romney’s plan does nothing to help them get coverage or protect them if they develop arthritis, survive breast cancer, or discover they have high blood pressure.
But there’s another—even bigger—problem with the plan Mitt Romney is trying to sell the country: It’s already the law. Since 1996, federal law has protected people with pre-existing conditions if they have already have insurance. So not only does his so-called “plan” leave 89 million people at risk, it’s also not even a change from the status quo.
President Obama fought to reform the health care system because he believes Americans deserve affordable health care—and he knew the old system wasn’t working. Thanks to Obamacare, insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, insurers will be barred from charging women higher premiums than they charge men, and more than 3 million young adults gained health care coverage because of the provision allowing young adults under 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance. By repealing Obamacare entirely, Romney would eliminate all these benefits and once again subject middle-class families to the whims of insurance companies’ bottom lines.