We talked last week about a curious trend: Mitt Romney will say something to voters, only to have his campaign staff tell voters afterwards that Romney didn't really mean what he said.
I'm not just talking about the occasional post-speech clarification, either. On immigration, Iran, taxes, and reproductive rights, Candidate Romney says one thing, while Team Romney says something else. It happened again last night.
Here's Romney during the debate...
"[N]umber one, pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan."
...and here's Romney's spokesperson after the debate.
Pressed by TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro, [Eric Fehrnstrom] said those who currently lack coverage because they have pre-existing conditions would need their states to implement their own laws -- like Romney's own Massachusetts health care law -- that ban insurance company from discriminating against sick people.
Paul Krugman added, "I guess you could say that Romney's claim wasn't exactly a lie, since some people with pre-existing conditions would retain coverage. But as I said, it's the moral equivalent of a lie; if you think he promised something real, you're the butt of a sick joke."
The underlying policy is critically important here, especially for those with pre-existing conditions (or those who may someday have a pre-existing condition).
As of last night, Romney believes a worker who has a pre-existing condition should be able to keep his or her coverage if they change jobs. There's no reason to give him credit for taking this bold stand -- since 1996, federal law has already protected these folks, and Romney is simply endorsing the longstanding status quo.
But what about everyone else who has a pre-existing condition, including children? As Sam Stein reported a while back, they're out of luck under Romney's approach.
For starters, there is the question of what happens to individuals with pre-existing conditions who lose their jobs rather than move to a new one? Often, COBRA coverage doesn't fully cover treatment costs or last long enough. Another, perhaps more pertinent question is what happens to people who enter the insurance market already suffering from a pre-existing condition? [...]
[A statement from the Romney campaign] confirms that under a Romney presidency, there would be no federal prohibition barring health insurers from discriminating against pre-existing conditions. Instead, his administration would push reforms that help eat away at the problem.
Those "reforms" -- including turning responsibilities to states -- have been largely ineffective.
It's why Fehrnstrom's summary -- let's just hope sick people live in states that adopt good policies -- is so absurd.
An ABC report added that Romney's policy "does not immediately address people who have never had private health insurance, or who have had insurance but spent some time without, often because of financial circumstances and unemployment."
So to reemphasize a point from a month ago, what's the bottom line? First, Americans with pre-existing conditions would be in pretty big trouble if Romney's elected. Second, the fact that Romney says one thing to the country, while his staff quietly says something else to reporters, isn't encouraging.