How Obamacare is pressuring Romney

With overall support for Obamacare middling at best, you might think that it would be hurting Obama and helping Romney.

Yet it appears that Obamacare (i.e., the Affordable Care Act, the ACA) is putting pressure on Romney.

A key reason is that Obamacare created a new normal in who’s covered. 

The law requires insurance companies to take all comers. People with pre-existing conditions cannot be excluded, a provision called “guaranteed issue.”

This is a very popular part of the law. Typically two-thirds of Americans support it. In November 2011, when the ACA was less popular than it is now, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 67% saw this provision favorably, with 47% very favorable.

Thus, when Romney went on Meet the Press yesterday, he said he supported “a number of things in Obamacare,” including a provision enabling people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance.

Since then, his campaign has clarified that he doesn’t support this, at least not in the way that it works under Obamacare. Rather, he says insurance companies should have to cover people with pre-existing conditions but only if they have continuous coverage.

If you lose your insurance because you have lost your job or your employer dropped it and you have a pre-existing condition, under Romney’s proposed policy, no insurance company would have to sell it to you. Romney’s language implied something more but his plan would decrease access to insurance granted under the ACA.

Obamacare is indeed pressuring Romney

He wants to associate himself with the new normal, the popular provision on pre-existing conditions.

However, from the policy point of view, this is impossible without a mandate.  Insurance companies that are required to take all comers, even as many lack insurance, would end up with people getting insurance when they are sick or injured. Meanwhile, some healthy people would refrain from getting insurance. The result would undermine the financial basis of a healthy insurance system. And, of course, that’s why there is a mandate under Romneycare and Obamacare.

And, from the political view, the most activist elements in Republican base would like to see Obamacare repealed altogether. For Romney to say he’d keep some of it is, as far as they’re concerned, a non-starter.

Not much has been said about health care lately, but it very well could bubble up as an issue. Certainly during several of the debates, particular provisions will be discussed.

Obama, to be sure, will have his own challenges with this issue. But he is helped by this new normal, the view that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance.

One more thing: Obama’s advantage on health care is seen in more and more polls, as he is favored on health care over Romney. For instance, in the newest CNN poll, the numbers on health policy are Obama 54%, Romney 45%. On handling Medicare, it’s Obama 54%, Romney 43%.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.