Then, in typical Romney fashion, he immediately backtracked on pre-existing conditions and said that he would only allow that for people who have had continued insurance coverage. Because there is no history in the United States of people being dropped by their insurance companies when one gets sick, or one losing their job when they get sick (and thus coverage) and not being able to afford coverage, thus creating a gap. You know. Not in Mitt Romney's country club.
The early reaction of pundits to this sudden (and simultaneously not-so-sudden) shift in Mitt Romney's stand has been that now that the RNC is behind him, Romney is trying to move to the center to reach key swing voters who may not like the Republican-concocted fantom version of "Obamacare" but sure as hell like the above-mentioned parts. You don't win votes by telling parents that you will take health care coverage away from their kids.
Certainly, that is also Mitt Romney's goal. Basically, he wants to muddy the water on health reform and fool people into thinking, "Oh, hey, Romney will keep the good parts of Obamacare, too." But this is exactly where Mitt steps into it. He takes the bait laid out by President Obama. And he immediately transforms the conversation about health care into the progressive frame rather than the GOP frame. How so?
First, simply by discussing "good parts" of Obamacare, Mitt Romney concedes that Obamacare has good parts! OMG, it's not the Devil's spawn! It pours cold water all over the right wing's fervent belief that health reform is a socialist communist freedom-killing poisonous wreck. It will not only turn the conversation but also dispirit Mitt Romney's base (just have a look at the comments section when Drudge broke this story), who have never wanted to hear about "replacing" Obamacare, but only about repealing it. And that stance is not new - the Republican party concentrated all of their efforts on killing health reform during its legislative process, not on tweaking it. Anything short of that would be giving Obama credit for being a president who was trying to do what is right for the American people rather being the Kenyan anti-colonialist usurper they believe him to be. The fervent right's belief that Obama is destroying America cannot be sustained by anything short of a full-throated defense of the idea that he can do no right.
But even worse than dispiriting his base and screwing with his own party's anti-Obama frame, by merely bringing up 'parts' of Obamacare that he would keep, Romney takes the debate over health care reform where the Obama team wanted it to be all along: the details. If Mitt Romney will keep a couple of popular parts of health reform in place, the natural question is, which of the other popular parts of health reform will he also keep, which of those popular reforms will he tear down, and why? Let's list them:
- Community rating (your insurance company cannot gouge you) and guaranteed issue (pre-existing conditions).
- Requiring that insurance companies provide preventive care without a copay or deductible.
- Outlawing lifetime - and eventually annual - limits on coverage.
- Requiring insurance companies to spend 80-85% of premium revenue on actually providing health care.
- Closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap (the "donut hole").
- Giving small businesses 35% tax credits for providing insurance to their employees.
- Requiring insurance companies to cover a basic set of essential benefits (no more junk insurance).
- Create marketplaces (exchanges) where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance.
- Providing subsidies for people to be able to afford insurance through the exchanges.
- Expanding Medicaid to all low-income Americans (below 133% of poverty) and fully funding the expansion at the federal level for 3 years and at 90% thereafter.
- More than doubling the capacity of community health centers.