Mitt Romney pledged to replace the U.S. health-care overhaul with a plan relying on private markets to provide “access to good health care” for every American, as he revived attacks on President Barack Obama’s signature achievement that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule on.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee told small business owners in Orlando, Florida, that he would implement policies, including tax breaks, aimed at helping the private market care for the uninsured and those with preexisting medical conditions.
“Free enterprise is the way America works,” Romney told the group gathered in the warehouse of Con Air Industries, which makes air filters. “We need to apply that to health care.”
The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the Affordable Care Act by the end of the month, ruling on a law that would expand insurance to at least 30 million people and transform an industry that accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. economy.
Romney, 65, said if the justices fail to overturn the law completely, he would repeal the remaining pieces on his first day as president by granting waivers for every state to opt out of the restrictions.
“Regardless of what they do, it’s going to be after the next president to either repeal and replace or replace Obamacare,” Romney said. “And I intend to do both.”
Democrats charged Romney with trying to roll back the benefits of the law for young people, women and the uninsured.
“For too long, American families have faced a choice between going bankrupt to afford the care they need or going without that care at all, and Mitt Romney wants to take us back to that time,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
Standing in front of a banner reading “Repeal & Replace Obamacare,” Romney said caring for the uninsured is his top priority. He would put that responsibility on the states, and not require people to obtain insurance or face financial penalties, as the federal law does. To provide the care, Romney would divert money from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, and other funding to local governments.
He also vowed to maintain coverage for people with preexisting conditions, though only those who risk losing their benefits when they change jobs or get laid off.
Romney’s proposal is a more limited version of a provision included in Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which requires insurance companies to cover all people with preexisting conditions -- even first-time buyers.
Between 36 million and 122 million adults, or from 20 percent to 66 percent of the U.S. adult population, reported having medical conditions that could result in health insurance coverage restrictions, according to a March 27 report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s auditing arm.
It’s unclear how insurance companies could cover those with preexisting conditions without the individual mandate for everyone to buy insurance -- part of the law Romney has said he would repeal if it isn’t struck down by the Supreme Court.
Coverage of Children
Romney also didn’t mention the provision in the current law, which Obama signed in March 2010, that lets children stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26.
UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. said this week they would save some of the law’s provisions, including letting young adults stay on parents’ plans, regardless of how the court rules.
Without the law, parents would have to pay for their child’s coverage with after-tax dollars, resulting in a higher tax bill.
Though Romney first laid out his health-care plans in a May 2011 speech in Michigan, he largely avoided the issue in the Republican primaries while his rivals sought to use it against him.
During his 2003-2007 term as governor of Massachusetts, Romney helped craft health-care legislation that included the insurance mandate for all state residents. Aspects of the federal law are similar to the Massachusetts measure, including the provision that adults must buy insurance or face a financial penalty.
Romney, while not backing away from his support of the Massachusetts law, has said he doesn’t back imposing its provisions nationwide. His chief rival in the Republican race, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, argued Romney’s record meant he couldn’t provide an effective contrast to Obama on the health-care issue.
Having locked down his party’s nomination, Romney is seeking to depict the Affordable Care Act as another example of how Obama is out of touch with the economic anxieties of many Americans.
Romney seized on a statement the president made about the law in an interview yesterday. When a television reporter in Iowa asked Obama about a small business that blamed its closing on the health-care law, Obama replied, “That’s going to be hard to explain.”
Obama continued: “The only folks that have been impacted in terms of the health-care bill are insurance companies who are required to make sure that they’re providing preventive care, or they’re not dropping your coverage when you get sick. So this particular company probably wouldn’t have been impacted by that.”
Romney today called the response “something else that shows just how out of touch” Obama is.
“It was like: really? Have you not been out talking to small businesses and hearing what they have to say,” he told Florida donors gathered for a fundraiser this afternoon at the Isleworth country club, a gated community that is home to many professional golfers.
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