Mitt Romney accidentally makes a pretty good argument for Obamacare's responsibility mandate
ROMNEY: Well, if they’re 45 years old and they show up they say ‘I want insurance because I’ve got a heart disease,’ it’s like hey guys, we can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you are well, and then if you get ill then you’re going to be covered.Leno, to his credit, pushed back on Romney, pointing out that under Obamacare, everybody will be able to buy insurance, regardless of whether or not they have a pre-existing condition:
LENO: Yeah, but they’re a lot of people that I see, I only mention this because I know guys that work in the auto industry and they’re just not covered because they work in brake dust, and they could get [ill], so they were just never able to get insurance. And then they get to be 30 and 35, and they were never able to get insurance before. Now they have it. That seems like a good thing.Romney seemed to recognize that he'd just walked himself into a trap, because he started to back away from what he'd just said, saying he would "look at" the problem outlined by Leno:
ROMNEY: Well, we’ll look at a circumstance where someone was ill and hasn’t been insured so far.Romney then tried to deny the problem exists, suggesting that employers already cover all their employees:
But people who have had the chance to be insured, if you’re working in an auto business, for instance, the companies carry insurance, they insure all their employees, you look at the circumstances that exist. But the people who have done their best to get insured are going to be able to be covered.That part of his answer was basically gibberish, but Romney's conclusion was surprising:
But you don’t want everyone saying ‘I’m going to sit back until I get sick and then go get insurance.’ That doesn’t make sense. But you’d have to find rules that get people in that are playing by the rules.That's not a bad explanation of the free rider problem—people waiting to get insurance until they are sick. And his conclusion was even better: to prevent free riders, "you'd have to find rules that get people in that are playing by the rules."
That doesn't mean Mitt Romney has flip-flopped back to being in favor of Obamacare. After all, he had just finished telling Jay Leno that he'd turn a cold shoulder to uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions. But Romney—perhaps by accident—nonetheless just offered a pretty good argument in favor of Obamacare's individual responsibility mandate. And he did it in the middle of the Republican primary. Commencing countdown to his "clarification" in 3-2-1...