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Romney And Ryan Camps Walk Back Candidates’ Statements On Health Law

By Phil Galewitz

September 10th, 2012, 5:00 PM

On Sunday, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, said he would keep the popular provision in President Barack Obama’s health law that “makes sure those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”

Courtesy NBC

And on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulus, Paul Ryan appeared to back a lesser-known part of the law called “maintenance of effort” that prohibits states from making it harder for people to get covered by Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor, until 2014.

Both statements seemed to signal dramatic shifts in position for the Republican presidential ticket. But campaign officials later insisted the men hadn’t said anything they hadn’t said before.

On pre-existing conditions,  campaign officials said later Sunday that Romney supports coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but only for those who have had continuous coverage — a position Romney has had for months. That helps people who change jobs, but leaves out those with a gap in coverage. The Commonwealth Fund found that about 89 million Americans between 2004 and 2007  had at least a one-month gap of coverage.

A Romney official said that such people would be taken care of by state high-risk insurance pools.

In contrast, the federal health law starting in 2014 blocks insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions for everyone. The provision is already in effect for children.

Since 1996, a federal law has protected people from being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions if they continually have coverage. The downside of that law is there is no limit on what insurers can charge. Under the federal health law, in 2014, insurers won’t be able to charge higher rates based on a person’s health status.

On the “maintenance of effort” provision, which was first included in the federal stimulus package in 2009, then continued by the 2010 health law,  campaign officials clarified that despite Ryan’s comment, he is still in favor of killing the requirement because it inhibits state flexibility with Medicaid.

Ryan favors giving states block grants so they have broader power over the program. Stephanopoulus noted that the Urban Institute has estimated that between 14 million and 27 million fewer people will be covered under Medicaid block grants.

“I won’t get into the details, but with maintenance of effort requirements, which is what we’ve done in the past, they still have to serve this population,” Ryan said in the television interview.

Joe Antos, an economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he thinks Ryan meant to say that even if Medicaid became a block grant, states would have to continue serving those eligible for the program.

To receive guaranteed federal funding, states today must cover certain “mandatory” populations. These include children under age 6 with family income below 133 percent of the federal poverty line; children ages 6 to 18 with income below the poverty line; pregnant women with income below 133 percent of the poverty line; and most seniors and persons with disabilities who receive cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income  program.

6 Responses to “Romney And Ryan Camps Walk Back Candidates’ Statements On Health Law”

  1. Linda Ellis says:

    I just knew there would be more specifics that desribe Mr. Romney’s short statement about his being for, not against, people with pre-existing conditions to be able to obtain health insurance coverage if he becomes America’s next President and repeals the Affordable Care Act negatively known as “Obamacare.”

    Thank you KHN, for covering information that helps clarify his true position.

    Mr. Romney’s proposal is essentially the reverse of the policy of the federal high risk pools now in place — i.e., the bridge to 2014, where presently a potential enrollee must be uninsured for at least six months in order to be accepted and covered for their pre-existing conditions with monthly premiums that are more in line with those offered in the private market to those without pre-existing conditions.

    What Mr. Romney is proposing is that only those potential enrollees just losing coverage and can prove they had previous (18 months???) creditable health insurance coverage will be eligible for consideration for a health insurance plan which covers their pre-existing conditions.

    But, what he does not define is this: Will ALL of the private health insurance plans be bound to accept people who have just lost their health insurance coverage (COBRA ending, for example) and cover their pre-existing conditions? Or, will this scenario be limited to the more expensive state run high risk pools? As you might expect, the monthly premiums are normally more expensive with the state run high risk pools than private market health insurance plans where those who do not have pre-existing conditions can obtain their coverage without fear of denial.

    “Since 1996, a federal law has protected people from being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions if they continually have coverage. The downside of that law is there is no limit on what insurers can charge. ”

    I feel the above statement is somewhat mis-leading at least here in Ohio where I live. In Ohio, there are “Open-Enrollment” health insurance plans with the highest monthly premiums which offer health insurance coverage to those who have pre-existing conditions and were losing their insurance after continuous coverage (for 18 months) . We already have this program both prior to the enactment of the ACA and afterward. However, in Ohio, no program was in place that offered health insurance coverage to those people who were rejected in the private market at some point and who were subsequently uninsured for months or even years. If they could not obtain health insurance any other way (i.e., Medicare, Medicaid, a spouse’s plan, or through a new employer-sponsored plan, as examples.) they were thus deemed to be uninsurable due to having pre-existing conditions. Their lot was to become uninsured — no matter where they looked, there simply was no viable affordable health insurance options left to them.

    Mr. Romney’s plan discriminates against and leaves behind those who have been and continued to be uninsured who are not able to prove they had continuous coverage for a specific time period, (which I have found to be 18 months. )

    By 2014, if the market place exchanges come about as planned, adults and children alike with pre-existing health conditions will finally ,and I will say with fanfare, no longer be rejected for health insurance coverage in the private market. Health insurance converge that is as viable and affordable as for those who do not have pre-existing illnesses – which do not have to be life threatening.

    America, as a nation, must end this degrading discriminatory practice that for far too long has branded so many of its citizens as “uninsurable” — it is unfair and should be un-American.

  2. Bob D says:

    Romney/Ryan ie Flip&Flop

  3. Tibor Creta says:

    One of the Republican talking points is that Obamacare is supposedly preventing companies from hiring because companies are atill unclear about the rule.

    This is patently false because hiring is a direct correlation of consumer demand. When demand is down, hiring is down. We’re barely out of a recession, so demand is down. Obamacare has nothing to do with it.

    Yet, based on that Republican mantra, do they think that shifting the rules once again by scrapping Obamacare and implementing their own policies will somehow make it clearer for businesses and then they’ll start hiring? Hilarious, if it weren’t sad.

  4. Judy Strait-Jones says:

    Why are we not surprised that the Romney/Ryan stance is built on shifting sands. They will be told what they can do (and not do) by the Teagag Party. Please … get us to some politicians who say what they mean and then stand by it.

    We need a single payer plan … dream on.

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  6. ollie says:

    Mitt Romney can’t help himself. He knows that the Romneycare law he enacted in Massachusetts has been an overwhelming success. Romney must be frustrated that the Tea Party will not let him take credit for Romneycare’s huge success and popularity. For the next 50 plus days until the election, Romney will keep having these episodes where he points to Romneycare and speaks about it in endearing terms. Romney’s campaign is going to have a serious problem because Romney is an honest man and wants to be himself and tell the truth. As long as the Tea Party keeps Romney on a short leash, he will continue to have gaffes about Romneycare. Fact is, Obamacare is virtually an exact model of Romneycare and Romneycare was originally designed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation back in 1989. The Tea Party hates this fact but they can’t deny it.

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