Mitt Romney’s pre-existing Massachusetts condition

Last week on the Jay Leno Show, presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, while criticizing Obama’s comprehensive health care reform law, argued that those with preexisting conditions who have not previously had health care should not be entitled to coverage. When pressed on the matter, he claimed that “people who have done their best to get insured, are going to be able to be covered” and went on to state that people simply cannot “get sick and then go buy insurance.”

While on the surface, Romney’s statements might sound reasonable—people can generally get insurance and allowing people to ride free and not pay for insurance until they get sick probably is not a good thing— a brief look at the actual facts reveals an entirely different story. The assertion that those who try to get insurance “are going to be able to get covered” fundamentally conflicts with the reality that an estimated 17 percent of Americans do not have health insurance coverage according to a 2011 Gallup study. That’s nearly one in five Americans who do not have health insurance. Even if one were to give Romney the benefit of the doubt and assume that some of those people might not want health insurance coverage, it is clear that more people want and cannot afford or acquire health insurance coverage than there is coverage available, and at least some of them are being denied coverage because of preexisting conditions.

Romney’s assertion that Obama’s plan would allow those who get sick to buy insurance also doesn’t reflect reality. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandates that all individuals buy health care, thus no one can avoid paying for health insurance if they aren’t sick and then buy it if they become ill.

Now, clearly some people disagree with the idea of an individual mandate for buying health care, and there is by no means a consensus on the legality or the politics of such a mandate, but as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney enacted a plan nearly identical to Obamacare. In Massachusetts, there is an individual mandate for health insurance.

The most disconcerting part about Romney’s rejection of health insurance for those with preexisting conditions is that his position, at least as he outlined it on Leno, is not only factually unfounded, but also made specifically to pander to an increasingly conservative Republican base.

With the Republican presidential nomination still up in the air, Romney has been attempting to shift his image more to the right. However, in doing so, he has alienated moderates and the nearly 80 percent of Americans who believe that insurance companies should provide coverage to everyone, including those with preexisting conditions, according to a 2011 poll.

Such political pandering is dangerous, ineffectual, and only serves to further widen the political divide in this country. Our politicians should not have to contradict reasonable, widely accepted policies that they may have even supported in the past, just to secure a party nomination and at the cost of compromise.

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