Romney falls into the "if you like your plan you can keep it" trap 

Mitt Romney is unveiling a new health care plan today, but he's already falling into the same trap as President Obama by promising that people will keep their existing health insurance under his plan, something that he can't possibly guarantee.

The problem that Obama ran into is that he claimed over and over again that anybody who liked their plan could keep it under the national health care law, but in reality, even if the law doesn't explicitly force people to give up their coverage, it changes incentives and imposes new regulations so that people will in fact lose coverage.

Romney, in a USA Today op-ed ahead of his speech, makes a similar promise (emphasis mine):

Step 2: Reform the tax code to promote the individual ownership of health insurance. The tax code offers open-ended subsidies for the purchase of insurance through employers. This subsidy is unfair — as it doesn't apply to insurance purchased on one's own. I propose to give individuals a choice between the current system and a tax deduction to buy insurance on their own. This simple change creates the best of both worlds. Absolutely nothing will change for those who like their current coverage. And individuals who don't get coverage through their employers will have portable, lower-cost options.

Even if Romney doesn't force people to lose their coverage, if he changed the tax code so that workers could gain the same tax advantages to purchase insurance on their own, a certain number of employers may decide to stop offering coverage.

To be sure, I think any real health care reform has to go through the tax code and move away from the employer based insurance model. I think that's good policy. But the claim that nothing would change is merely an empty political promise, not a policy argument. And ultimately, it's a political loser, because it creates an opening for opponents every time an aspect of the policy prompts the loss of coverage -- something that the Obama White House is finding out.

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Philip Klein

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