Romney Adviser: Actually, My Boss Was Wrong Up There

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The debate spin room is the place where advisers are supposed to convince reporters that their guy won. It's not the place where advisers are supposed to make news. But it sounds like Eric Fehrnstrom, a top Romney adviser, did exactly that night. And it's wouldn’t be the kind of news that makes his candidate look good, although it remains to be seen how many people will notice.

It happened while Fehrnstrom was answering questions about health care. During the debate, Romney repeated a claim he’s made many times: That his health care plan would provide protection for people with pre-existing conditions. As noted here and elsewhere, that claim is false. Romney has suggested he’d prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions if they already have insurance coverage. That wouldn’t protect the many people who’ve let insurance lapse (say, because of a job loss) or couldn’t get it in the first place. It also wouldn’t guarantee that people could pay for the insurance, either by providing financial assistance or regulating prices. In short, it wouldn’t do much more than the current law does, which isn’t very much.

Apparently several reporters asked Fehrnstrom about it, among them Evan McMorris-Santoro from Talking Points Memo:

Pressed by TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, Fehrnstrom said those who currently lack coverage because they have pre-existing conditions would need their states to implement their own lawslike Romney’s own Massachusetts health care lawthat ban insurance company from discriminating against sick people.

“We’d like to see states do what Massachusetts did,” Fehrnstrom said. “In Massachusetts we have a ban on pre-existing conditions.”

This is an admission that Romney’s statement in the debate was wrong. If his plan truly protected people with pre-existing conditions, as Romney says, it wouldn’t require states to do so on their own.

The irony is that Romney’s coverage plan in Massachusetts protects people with pre-existing conditions the very same way that the Affordable Care Act will: By prohibiting insurers from denying coverage or raising premiums to anybody because of medical status, then providing subsidies for people who can’t buy coverage on their own. That would be the same Affordable Care Act that Romney keeps promising to repeal, because it'd do so many awful things to American health care.

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