Health policy will claim several minutes of its own during Wednesday night’s first presidential debate. The debate between President Obama and Governor Romney is primarily about the economy. Both topics tend to be detached from sound “economics” per se at the campaign level, but the handling of health care during the next presidential term (and beyond) could either strengthen or sink prospects for renewed economic growth.
The Obama playbook and debating points for health policy are written. Much of it falls under the fiction (either mystery or horror) category.
Thus far, Romney’s campaign has neither targeted the political vulnerabilities of Obamacare to any great extent, nor framed a concise alternative vision of health reform.
Don’t expect any remarkable transformations tomorrow night, in terms of new policy details that could capture additional support from remaining independent, undecided voters.
However, there are several tactical enhancements that could move Romney beyond uncomfortably sidestepping his role as Massachusetts governor in facilitating an individual mandate, an exchange-like “Connector,” and Medicaid expansion. Simply promising to repeal Obamacare and not reinstall Romneycare version 2.0 in its place, while outsourcing everything else to state governments, won’t cut it. But Romney also can’t afford to create (or borrow) a new health policy agenda overnight.