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Did Mitt Romney misrepresent his health-care proposals on 'Meet the Press'? (+video)

On 'Meet the Press,' Mitt Romney said one part of Obamacare he'd like to preserve is coverage for those with preexisting conditions. But 'continuous coverage' is key, his campaign stated later.

By Staff writer / September 10, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney campaigns at PR Machine Works in Mansfield, Ohio, Monday, Sept. 10. Romney made an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Washington

Did Mitt Romney stretch the truth about his health-care proposals during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday? That’s what some Democrats are charging Monday.

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Washington Editor

Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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At issue is something the GOP nominee said during a discussion with host David Gregory about President Obama’s health-care reform law. Despite pushing similar state-based reforms when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney opposes Obama’s health law, and has vowed to work to repeal it.

Romney told Gregory that he didn’t oppose the law in its entirety. He said there are parts of it that he’d like to duplicate in his own health plan.

“Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place,” said Romney. “One is to make sure that those with preexisting conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like.”

As to the preexisting conditions issue, under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can’t turn away prospective customers who already have health challenges. In return, they get lots of new customers from the law’s mandate that everyone has to have health coverage.

On NBC, Romney implied that he’d keep the first part of that equation while getting rid of the second, since he’s opposed to the individual mandate.

The problem is that isn’t the full story in regards to Romney’s position on preexisting conditions coverage. In fact, Romney is proposing something much different than the blanket preexisting conditions protections of Obama’s ACA.

Later in the day the Romney campaign issued a clarification to National Review.

“Governor Romney will ensure that discrimination against individuals with preexisting conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited,” a campaign aide told National Review’s Katrina Trinko.

By “continuous coverage,” the Romney team means just that – people who already have health insurance can’t be booted off due to preexisting conditions.

“That’s great for an individual who gets a new job. But continuous coverage isn’t so great for the individual who has spent some time without insurance, perhaps because of difficult financial times. Continuous coverage won’t do much for you in that situation,” writes Sarah Kliff on the Washington Posts’ Wonkblog.

Not only that, it’s already the law in most cases, points out Kliff, due to the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

As to people without continuous coverage who have preexisting conditions, Romney would expand on current state efforts to cover them via high-risk insurance pools.

The GOP nominee “supports reforms that empower states to make high-risk pools more accessible by using cost reducing methods like risk adjustment and reinsurance,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Huffington Post in June following a Romney speech on health care.

Now, does all this mean Romney was stretching the truth during his Meet the Press appearance? According to Democrats, it does. Current state high-risk pools generally offer poor insurance coverage at high prices, writes liberal Ed Kilgore Monday in the Washington Monthly.

“So once again, Mitt makes a reasonable sounding statement in front of a large audience, knowing he won’t be forced to disclose any details or actually make sense, and only later do we find out that it’s all smoke,” writes Kilgore.

Republicans, however, respond that Romney wasn’t stretching the truth. He does support covering preexisting conditions, and has a plan to do so, whether Democrats approve of it or not.

“This kind of mechanism, using high-risk pools combined with prohibitions on preexisting condition exclusions for the continuously insured, has been part of just about every conservative health-care proposal in recent years, including John McCain’s in 2008, the Ryan-Coburn alternative to Obamacare, and the congressional Republicans’ ‘Pledge to America’ before the 2010 elections,” writes Yuval Levin on the National Review blog The Corner.

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