(NEW YORK) — Democrats are seizing on a portion of Mitt Romney’s interview with 60 Minutes in which he cites hospital emergency rooms as a health care option for the uninsured — a statement that contrasts with his longstanding opposition to such an approach because it’s widely known as the most expensive.
Here’s what Romney told Scott Pelley:
PELLEY: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?
ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.
PELLEY: What’s the most expensive way to do it? In an emergency room?
ROMNEY: Again, different states have different ways of doing that. Some provide that care through clinics. Some provide the care through emergency rooms. In my state, we found a solution that worked for my state. But I wouldn’t take what we did in Massachusetts and say to Texas, ‘You’ve got to take the Massachusetts model.’
A new Obama campaign web video released Monday afternoon suggests Romney has flip-flopped on the issue, criticizing him for appearing to favor a plan that would “lead to higher costs and leave more Americans without insurance.”
The video highlights Romney’s March 2010 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe when he said he believes in universal health insurance coverage to reduce reliance on emergency rooms for care.
“Look, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility, particularly if they are people who have sufficient means to pay their own way,” Romney said at the time.
The Democratic National Committee made Romney’s apparent “shift” on health care for the uninsured a new talking point on their two-day Ohio bus tour, with spokesman Brad Woodhouse noting “the man who created the model for health care reform has moved so extreme right that he says the uninsured should use the emergency room like it’s a doctor’s office. We know this doesn’t work.”
In an email to ABC News, Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg argued that the GOP nominee has not changed positions but was simply making “a statement of fact” in the 60 Minutes interview.
“Governor Romney made a statement of fact that Americans without health insurance are still able to receive critical care including in some cases through emergency rooms,” she said. “It is an absurd misreading of his comments to imply that he offered emergency rooms as a ‘solution’ to our nation’s health care challenges.”
“As president, Mitt Romney will repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense, patient-centered reforms that strengthen our health care system making sure that every American, regardless of their health care needs, can find quality, affordable coverage,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Deirdre Walsh and Eugene Scott, CNN