Etch-A-Sketch Update

Romney made news this weekend with his comments on Obamacare:

Tyler Cowen expected this:

I would say he is preparing for a major fold on the issue. I’ve been predicting a Romney administration would block grant Medicaid, undo some or all of the Medicare savings in ACA, but essentially keep the mandate under a different label and then claim to have "repealed and replaced."

But then the Romney campaign seemed to walk back the statement, in a rare double back-flip triple lutz. Here's what Katrina Trinko heard:

In reference to how Romney would deal with those with preexisting conditions and young adults who want to remain on their parents’ plans, a Romney aide responded that there had been no change in Romney’s position and that "in a competitive environment, the marketplace will make available plans that include coverage for what there is demand for. He was not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer those particular features."

The Romney camp then clarified the clarification. The latest defense of the pandering is at NRO. Drum analyzes the double walk-back:

According to an aide, "Gov. Romney will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited." This has long been Romney's position, and it's not clear if it's meaningful or not. This kind of protection has been the law of the land since 1995 for people with group coverage. And people who lose group coverage already qualify for individual COBRA coverage for 18 months. So the only way Romney's statement means anything is if he's saying he would pass a law that requires insurance companies to offer permanent individual coverage at a reasonable price to people who lose their group coverage. Needless to say, Romney has never actually committed to that particular detail.

So it's a flip-flop-flip that's also a lie. A Romney threefer! Or rather, the abstract ideological arguments against Obamacare can disappear upon engaging the reality of the details, which are sane, moderate and popular. Sarah Kliff also tries to decode Romney's statements:

It makes sense, politically, to support the end of pre-existing conditions: It regularly polls as one of the health-care law’s most popular provisions. Policy-wise, however, there’s a significant amount of space between "ending pre-existing conditions" and "ending pre-existing conditions [with continuous coverage]." Under the former scheme, insurers cannot deny coverage to an individual — no matter what. Under the latter, insurers can, in certain situations, refuse to cover some individuals.

Austin Frakt gets further into the weeds:

[J]ust because one has access to a plan, doesn’t mean one can find one that is affordable. I know Romney has some ideas that he believes will reduce the cost of insurance (see his vision here). It’s not clear to me that they are intended to match the level of subsidization to low-income families that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers. In fact, I think that’s probably the point. That’s one reason why the proposal is likely less costly for the federal government.

Pete Spiliakos sighs:

Does anyone doubt that, if you could offer Romney the presidency in return for keeping Obamacare and ROE, Romney would take the deal in a second? So the policy issues are just a bunch of BS he needs to say to win over subgroups of chumps, suckas, voters. The stuff about loving his parents and kids was real. The problem was that the realness of his love for his immediate family highlighted his cynicism and phoniness on everything else.

Mark Kleiman downplays the walk-back:

Doesn’t matter a damn. If Obamacare is "reform," and if its "good parts" are the status quo that needs to be maintained, then the Good Guys have won.