Stretching the Truth

As usual, I’m late in watching the presidential debates. On the topic, I followed a link on a recent Paul Krugman post to a piece by Sarah Kliff for the Washington Post. Kliff argues that Mitt Romney is essentially lying when he claims that his (or Paul Ryan’s) healthcare plan is not necessarily opposed to pushing health insurance firms to cover pre-existing conditions.

Kliff explains,

It started with the Republican presidential candidate saying during an appearance on “Meet the Press” that he liked the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires insurers to cover preexisting conditions, and would support something similar. Hours later, his campaign clarified he did not, however, support a federal ban against denying coverage for preexisting conditions. Around 10 p.m., the Romney camp had circled back to the same position it held back in March: that the governor supports coverage for preexisting conditions for people who have had continuous coverage.

I wrote a bit yesterday about why this is different than ending preexisting conditions altogether. In short, it means that those who go a month or two without coverage could later be denied insurance for a medical condition. If, however, you have had a gap in coverage — perhaps because you lost your job and couldn’t afford it — an insurer could not deny your application due to a preexisting condition.

To support her claim, she cites a study which argues that,

Last month, the nonprofit organization released its annual look at gaps in health insurance. It found that, between 2004 and 2007, 89 million Americans had at least a single one-month gap in insurance coverage. They were not, in other words, continually insured.

Am I alone in thinking that that statistic isn’t directly relevant?

89 million Americans doesn’t reflect on: (a) the number of Americans with pre-existing conditions; (b) the number who fall in category (a), but remain uninsured; or (c) the number of Americans who experienced discontinued coverage due to unemployment (since these, as Kliff explicitly states, would still be covered in the event of a pre-existing condition). Neither does it reflect on (d), the number of Americans who can afford health insurance and prefer not to procure it.

I’m sure that liberals can still make a strong case against Romney’s healthcare plan — whether or not someone likes me holds the same specific moral positions (edit: I’m not implying I’m voting for Romney) —, but loose numbers don’t help their case.


David Henderson discusses healthcare and last night’s debate. He suggest’s Avik Roy’s piece on the same subject.

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