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Romney's new tune on health care overhaul

Sep 12, 2012 - By The Philadelphia Inquirer

So now Mitt Romney actually likes parts of President Obama's signature health-care overhaul -- the same "Obamacare" that Romney and congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal on Day 1?

What a difference the start of the fall campaign can make.

In a move widely interpreted as a bid for undecided, middle-of-the-road voters, the GOP presidential nominee on Sunday said he'd retain provisions that assure young adults coverage on their parents' health plans, as well as the pivotal rule that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage.

Even so, Romney hasn't offered much reason to believe that he's become a man of deeply held convictions on health reform or any other policy question.

If anything, the Romney course-change on health care only amplifies the problem voters have had in trying to grasp where the candidate stands on many issues, whether it's tax cuts for the wealthy, balancing the budget, abortion, or the future of Medicare. After all, it was a Romney campaign aide who once compared his likely policy adjustments to fiddling with an Etch A Sketch.

As with any insurance policy, it's the fine print that matters in the health-reform stance Romney outlined in a Meet the Press appearance on NBC.

It turns out that the protections for those with pre-existing conditions wouldn't amount to much under Romney's approach, since he would apply them only if individuals maintained uninterrupted insurance coverage. Under that scenario, people with chronic illnesses could be out of luck if they lost a job. Millions without insurance apparently still could be refused coverage.

Even if Romney were to embrace the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that insurers cannot turn anyone away, his approach likely wouldn't make insurance more accessible or affordable.

The take-all-patients provision of the ACA relies on most Americans obtaining health coverage, thus spreading the cost of insuring the chronically ill. Yet Romney and GOP members of Congress oppose the so-called individual mandate that's designed to prompt people to buy insurance coverage, even though the mandate was upheld in a decision by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts.

For much of the campaign, Romney has struggled with explaining his opposition to the president's health reform when, as Massachusetts governor, Romney had signed a remarkably similar plan into law.

Maybe Romney's acceptance of a core concept of the federal health reform is an acknowledgment that it's unlikely -- not to mention, unwise -- that the law will be repealed, given a divided Congress.

If so, that's a good thing, since neither Romney nor other GOP naysayers has offered a viable alternative to provide coverage to the millions of uninsured.

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