The importance of what was not discussed in last night’s debate cannot be overstated. But the post-debate analysis will be tempered by whether the Romney campaign can hold on through the newfound tradition of fact-checking that will follow in the next couple days.
Already one issue has been brought up. There was a lengthy but not terribly illuminating section on health care, and this was Gov. Romney’s response:
Well, actually it’s — it’s — it’s a lengthy description. But, number one, preexisting conditions are covered under my plan [...] And with regards to health care, you had remarkable details with regards to my pre-existing condition plan. You obviously studied up on — on my plan. In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan. And what we did in Massachusetts is a model for the nation state by state. And I said that at that time.
This is not true. What’s Gov. Romney’s plan on covering people with pre-existing conditions? He’s made it clear in the past. It’s pretty much nothing. If someone has continuous coverage, they would be able to get insurance. That’s essentially what happens with COBRA: people get to stay on their insurance if they get laid off for a period of time. And if you lose employer coverage within 90 days, you have an option to pick up coverage from an insurer. But there are tens of millions of people, close to 50 million in fact, who have broken their coverage. After all, without any actual help to purchase this coverage, it quickly becomes unaffordable.
Eric Fehrnstrom clarified this in the spin room after last night’s debate.
“With respect to pre-existing conditions, what Governor Romney has said is for those with continuous coverage, he would continue to make sure that they receive their coverage,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, referring to existing laws which require insurance companies to sell coverage to people who already have insurance, or within 90 days of losing their employer coverage.
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 laws — like Romney’s own Massachusetts health care law — that 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.”
So his plan for pre-existing conditions is current law, which would leave out 89 million people, or to hope the states have a plan for pre-existing conditions. The current law doesn’t work; that’s why we have a broken system. The Massachusetts ban on pre-existing conditions operates like Obamacare, which Romney would repeal, so it’s unclear what they’re even talking about in the Romney camp. This gets back to how Romney thinks the Affordable Care Act is the death of freedom on the federal level but perfectly adequate at the state level.
Whether or not Democrats and the media actually make a point of this and other shadings of the truth from last night will inform the next few days.