The largest and clearest point of distinction in the presidential race is universal access to health insurance. If President Obama wins reelection, his law to provide access to the uninsured will go forward. If Mitt Romney is elected, it will be gutted, and Medicaid — the bare-bones coverage plan for the most desperately poor and sick — will face enormous additional cuts.
Commonwealth Fund has released a report comparing the stark choice. Estimating conservatively, Romney’s plan — to the extent that the report was able to piece it together — would increase the uninsured population to about 72 million, while Obama’s would cut it to 26 million (his plan does not cover illegal immigrants.) Probably more telling is Romney’s official campaign reaction:
“Under ObamaCare, Americans have seen their insurance premiums increase, small businesses are facing massive tax increases, and seniors will have reduced access to Medicare services,” Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman, wrote in an email to POLITICO. “The American people did not want this law, our country cannot afford this law, and when Mitt Romney becomes president he will repeal it and replace it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that strengthen our health care system.”
Note that the statement is almost entirely an attack on Obamacare, with a brief clause at the end vaguely promising something good will take its place. But that something requires resources. Most people lacking insurance are either sick or have a sick family member or they're poor. If you want to cover them, you need to cough up some money. Obamacare undertook the massive political heavy lift of providing those resources, and that’s what Romney attacks — he included higher taxes on “small businesses” (i.e., people making more than $250,000 a year) and “reduced access to Medicare services” (i.e., cuts in reimbursements to Medicare providers, as a trade-off for providing them with 30 million new paying customers.)
Romney’s budget is premised on denying the government enough resources to fund any kind of universal health insurance program. His promise to cut tax rates by 20 percent would reduce tax revenue well below current levels. But even if you accept Romney’s arithmetically impossible claim that he can cut tax rates by 20 percent and raise the same tax revenue as the tax code does right now (and without raising taxes on the middle class), merely holding revenue at current, Bush-set levels would make any kind of universal coverage impossible.
Both campaigns describe the election as a stark choice, and this is correct. It’s a choice between universal health coverage for legal citizens and preserving the Bush tax cuts.