It’s been the No. 1 agenda item for just about every Republican candidate since the legislation was enacted in 2010: repeal President Obama’s socialized “government takeover” of health care.
Two years later, however, some Republicans have had to adjust their tunes a little bit, saying they don’t want to get rid of the popular parts of Obamacare, just the sections of the law that they say will lead to higher costs, as well as the mandate that individuals buy health insurance.
Consider Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican who represents the 8th District of Pennsylvania, who has voted several times to repeal the Affordable Care Act; the House has passed repeal, but it has gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
But in an interview with two Bucks County newspapers, Fitzpatrick said Friday he could “embrace” the first 500 pages of the law, which includes the most popular provisions – banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to retain coverage under their parents’ policies until age 26.
“By implementing common sense reforms, Mike believes health insurers can cover pre-existing conditions and cover children under 26 years old at an affordable rate while reducing healthcare costs for all,” Fitzpatrick says on his campaign website.
Among the Republicans who also have been singing the praises of these two changes: Reps. Allen West of Florida, Rick Berg of North Dakota and Eric Cantor of Virginia, as well as Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Oh, and even GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Well, I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform,” Romney said Sept. 10 on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage. Two is to assure that the marketplace allows for individuals to have policies that cover their family up to whatever age they might like.”
Not long after that appearance, Romney’s staff came forward to “clarify” his remarks. What the candidate meant to say, they testified, is that he was sure that the free market would offer policies that cover children under the parents’ policies; he was not pledging to require that insurers do so. The advisers also said that Romney meant he would have some kind of program to help those with pre-existing conditions obtain coverage – insurance companies would not be forced to do it.
The problem, according to health economists, is that insurance companies will not be able to offer such coverage provisions at affordable prices without the individual mandate that provides them a guaranteed larger market.
Fitzpatrick is facing Democrat Kathy Boockvar in his swing district. Obama won the district with 54 percent of the vote in 2008. Democrat John Kerry carried it in 2004 with 50.7 percent, and Sen. Bob Casey (D) got 57.8 percent in 2006.
Fitzpatrick’s own experience shows how competitive the 8th District can be. He won his seat in 2010, after having lost it in 2006 to former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D.,Pa.) after one two-year term.