But Romney stumbled badly when Leno asked him what should happen to people with pre-existing conditions. If they had had insurance before, Romney said they should be able to get it again. (Note, however, he says nothing about how long ago they'd had insurance.) But if they never had insurance before, Romney gave what was essentially a non-answer: a) You can't play games like that; b) "But you have to find rules that get people in that are playing by the rules.” That, of course, would be a mandate, but he can't bring himself to say it because of primary politics and, as Greg Sargent points out, perhaps his own beliefs as well.
The alternative, though, is to do nothing for the uninsured who get sick. Romney did not rule that out, but merely tried clumsily to finesse it. As Mark Thoma says,
If we could make people pay the full cost of this wager that they won't need insurance, i.e. if society could turn it's back and say you made your choice, now live (or die) with it, a mandate wouldn't be needed. But we can't (and I wouldn't want to live in a society that could).I wouldn't want to live in such a society, either, which is why we need universal coverage. Though I'd prefer single payer, right now the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is as close as we are going to get. Romney's repudiation of it is as hilarious (and depressing) as that of the Heritage Foundation. As a result, his plans for the uninsured look distressingly like what Alan Grayson called the Republican health plan: 1) Don't get sick. 2) If you do get sick, die quickly.