Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney says that his national health care reform plan would offer coverage to uninsured Americans, emphatically repeating his claim during last week’s presidential debate. But a growing number of Romney surrogates and Republican health care economists are disputing Romney’s assertions.
Romney has committed to preventing insurance companies from discriminating against those who already have continuous coverage, such as the Americans who had employer-based health insurance before abruptly losing their jobs. As health economist and longtime GOP adviser Gail Wilensky admits in the Washington Post, Romney’s plan would barely make a dent in the nation’s uninsured population, not to mention leave out the millions of Americans who have not been continuously insured:
[Romney’s] campaign has not spelled out details other than it would help people who have maintained continuous coverage. That involves making incremental changes to insurance laws and regulations, and may or may not whittle down the number of uninsured.
“It will solve some of the problems,” said health economist Gail Wilensky, a longtime adviser to Republicans. “It won’t solve the problem of people having gone for a long time without health insurance.”
By contrast, Obamacare prevents insurance companies from discriminating against all Americans with pre-existing conditions, regardless of whether or not they have been continuously covered. As individual insurance market expert Karen Pollitz explains, “The ACA just says insurance companies can’t discriminate against you, period. If you’ve been uninsured, you can come into this market on Jan. 1, 2014, no questions asked.” Combined with Obamacare’s proposed expansion of the Medicaid program, President Obama’s health care reform law could help insure up to 32 million Americans who currently lack health insurance — while an estimated 72 million will continue to go without health insurance under Romney’s plan.
Wilensky headed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President George H. W. Bush.